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Passing the “Love” test

No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I am bankrupt without love. 1 Corinthians 13:3, MSG 

Love.

It’s something we all crave. Deep down in the very core of our beings. Sometimes when we have not received it, it’s also the very thing we reject.

Because we want to be loved we will look for love and acceptance in a variety of places. Things. Stuff. Approval from others. And often this approval from others looks nothing like the love that makes long-lasting relationships in the future.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. As my daughter gets older. As she has struggled over the years with friendships. As my oldest is now engaged. As I watch a load of preteens “think” they have mastered the art of dating. As I also watch many of these “masters” choose to date because it is “cool.” Pick mates that are mean to them and others. And move from one relationship to the next. Struggle as well with the “mean girl” mentality in their own friendships, and reject adult wisdom.

But is any of the worldly approval really “cool?” Are these ways of seeking approval and acceptance at all loving?

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it does not keep a record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NLT

I know I’ve dissected this before…but it stands to be discussed again. Because I have a daughter who now thankfully says she just has no time for boys, she has too much worries with pre-algebra. She comes home and tells me the things her friends go though with their “bf’s” (because we do this thing called “talk”), and has decided she don’t want no part of that! Her mind will change one day I am sure. And, I don’t want her to choose a mate solely based on the opinions of others. I want her to be treated right. I want to make sure she does so in return.

That she knows the true meaning of “love” not only in its romantic form, but in its purest form when thinking of how we love ALL. That when she comes home all starry-eyed over some crush, this is the conversation we can have:

Oh, mommy. He’s so cute! But, he is kind of mean to my friends. And, sometimes he calls me names, and gets jealous if I spend too much time with them. He also just has a really bad attitude about things. He’s negative all the time. 

Here goes. The moment she has to place his name in that Love Chapter. Let’s say his name is Bob. Sorry to any Bob’s out there. Here, in our house…everyone is Bob (insert eye roll).

Hayley, is Bob patient and kind? Is he NOT jealous, boastful, proud or rude? Bob doesn’t demand his own way, get irritable, and keep a record of your mistakes, right? He doesn’t laugh when others are oppressed or hurt, but stands up for them, right? Does Bob never give up, have faith in God, and remain hopeful?

If she can’t answer these, then he probably isn’t the boyfriend for her now! She can pray he has these qualities in the future. But, for now? I want her to have someone that is kind and patient with her. That doesn’t hold her wrongs against her, but forgives her. And someone who is also kind to others, and stands up for them when they are hurt or in danger.

I would do the same for my sons. I want the same for them. Not someone who mistreats them, or thinks it’s “cool” to mistreat others.

For all of their relationships. Even with their friends. Even with the adults in their lives. Do these people fit? Can they say they are patient and kind? Are they jealous? Or do they create situations that cause us to envy others, create drama, or keep us far from God?

 And if their relationships are lacking, I ask they insert those names and pray those hearts change and the characteristics of love and kindness begin to dwell in them.

Because they don’t dwell in our bank accounts. They don’t dwell in our looks. Or our job  or “cool” status. Those things fade and can be taken away.

They dwell in the heart. A heart that loves, cherishes, and treats others with kindness, goodness, respect, and mercy. That lives on forever.

Love never gives up. Love never dies. 

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Posted by on December 10, 2018 in Loving Others, On Parenting

 

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So that no one walks alone

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“I’m bored.”

“She’s an idiot. Why does she want to go to the pool so much.”

“You are the worst brother ever. You don’t ever want to do anything”

“You are stupid. I am sick of sitting by this stupid, stupid pool, stupid head.”

When they are not fighting over who gets the hour of free time. They fight over whose turn it is to go first.

When I am not rock-paper-scissoring these fights, I am dragging one kicking and screaming out of said pool after he has smacked me in front of everyone for asking him to sit down, and not ask me one more time when it is time to leave the “dummy” pool with “dummy Hayley.”

When I am not battling fights at the pool, I am battling them at the cabin, in a tiny room over whether they will play Monopoly or Clue, or even play a game at all. Whether Hunter is “boring,” or Hayley is once again “dumb” for even liking board games.

We were only away two days, and if the kids were not entertained every second they did not know what to do. They fought like 2 rabid pit bulls. Mommy could not please both, because neither of them seem to like the same things, and if they do it’s definitely not at the same time. The schedule Mommy tried to impose to ensure both got ample time at each activity of their choice is not working. Mom is frantic, has lost her cool, and then some, and needs something to sustain her.

Coffee can only go so far. And, after I head back into the pool. After the curly-headed monster has screamed a couple “nos” at me, and slapped at me again. As he stands there kicking at the fence and grunting, I realize that as I sit back down, I may be surrounded by a ton of people, but I am utterly and helplessly alone.

I don’t have anyone here to help carry this load when I can’t split myself in two.

No one is reassuring me that my parenting decision was not one that will scar him for life.

That my daughter won’t resent all the time her younger brother takes from her.

Instead, this frantic mom wanted to find a corner, and kick at the fence herself. Or, at least find a small hole to crawl into. I was embarrassed, frustrated, feeling under appreciated, and then it happened. The tears I was trying so hard to fight, finally just fell.

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

Until, one mom saw the tears falling as I sat on the side of that pool. As I sat trying to hide them neatly underneath the big hat I wore.

“What are your kids names? Are they coming back in a few weeks for camp?”

I explained that yes, the oldest one surely, but that curly-headed monster…more than likely-no. He had autism, and with it some issues that he just couldn’t get over that kept him from enjoying it.

“Oh, my oldest has Aspergers. I totally understand. It’s hard.”

There it was. Relief.

Someone who had seen my mommy moment. My “I want to melt right here and disappear” moment, and reached out.

And, even if this Mom didn’t understand what I was going through in that moment, she tried.

I know God is with me. I know in those moments when I feel alone, I can call on Him, and He will be there.  However, he has wired us for human connection.  And, there are times I desperately need that. And, I am pretty sure you do, too.

And with this connection comes His desire for us to share each other’s burdens. To walk with a mom who is having a hard time. So she isn’t sitting at the pool feeling so alone.

It will take us out of our comfort zones. This I know is true, but it will also breath life into some desperate soul wanting to give up. Hope into a weary parent who sees only their failings.

“I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.” Matthew 25:43

In a world that appears to be hurting and hiding it well, reaching outside your comfort zone, provides light to someone who may feel all alone in their struggles. May give someone the ability to reach out next time they feel like giving up. Screaming. Or running for the hills. Most importantly, it shows them the love of our Savior.

We are called to be that light to others as a community of believers, but the question is- are we? Are we like that Mom at the pool, willing to see the tears that fall, and get a little messy with them? Or do we steer clear, not wanting to have anything to do with that? When we ask someone how they are doing, do we really stop and wait for their answer? Or, are we offering fly-by conversation out of obligation, an “I’m asking how you are because I have to’s” with no desire to really know? Jesus certainly never stopped to wonder if someone was worthy of his time when he saw others hurting, or marched on intent on getting to his next stop. Neither should we.

Let’s be a little more messy. Jump in, walk with someone a while, and leave people a little less alone. You could be just the friend someone needs that particular moment or day. You could be the hope that Mom needs to just keep going. The reason someone’s tears suddenly disappear. The reason someone doesn’t melt into a puddle at the pool. It may take some time. It may be uncomfortable, but it will ensure that no one ever walks through their mess alone.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2018 in Autism and Faith, Loving Others

 

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Not a Stand-In Comforter

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If you look closely in the picture above. Beyond the curly-headed boy, focused intently on the puzzle sure to keep him busy for at least five minutes on a long car ride. You will see, peeking from his little lap-the blue, tattered, and worn face of his beloved puppy.  This puppy has been Hunter’s devoted mate since he was about 3 months old, and the joke around here, is that it will be with him when he graduates from high school, and if he ever actually decides to leave home.

He is unable to speak. However, he has been a constant. Steady. Devoted friend to the child who craves sameness, consistency, and routine.

And, although he doesn’t have a heart, can’t breath, or move; he has been the keeper of, and taken the brunt of my overloaded little boy’s emotions.

Puppy. (So aptly named because in Hunter thinking he shall be named what he is-a puppy) has soaked tears. Of loneliness. Despair. Sadness. Has been held onto as a lifeline during times of worry and anxiety. Has been clutched during screaming fits of frustration, confusion, and anger. He has helped calm the fears of the unknown, the new and different. Weathered sickness, shots, and long, exhausting car rides. He has soothed nightmares. Made bus rides with substitutes bearable, for both parents and child. He is depended upon for peace in the midst of chaos. Clarity in the face of confusion. Called on in the presence of fear. When the usual safety nets-mom and dad-are absent for a time, Puppy is the stand-in.

My little “monster” may need him for now.  He may still need him come graduation day. His object of security provides him with trust and faith as he navigates a world of which he often can’t make sense.

But, he doesn’t really need puppy at all.

His security lies in someone much more powerful than any stuffed dog.

And so does ours…

But, just like Hunter’s puppy, we cling to earthly security. We put our faith in the knowledge of people. Books. Possessions. Social media outlets. What the internet, or so and so down the street says. What our teachers tell us. Our friends. All those people we just “know” will come save us when we find ourselves in trouble. And God forbid we lose a WiFi connection, or have a bad day. When these worldly things fail that we turn to in times of stress, and we get in a tizzy, we may just turn to an unhealthy crutch to get us through it all. I know, because I do many of these things. Have coped with some unhealthy “puppies”, too.

Just as Hunter does not need that puppy to get him through the hard stuff. We don’t need those things either.

See, God provides all the things our objects of security and devotion seem to fulfill for us.

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. Psalm 46:1

We just reach for Him. Because, eventually when we reach for the chocolate, there will be none left. When we reach for the bottle, it will be empty. When we reach out to phone a friend, there will be no answer. And, stuffed childhood puppies, became tattered, torn, and worn. Eventually tossed away and forgotten, too.

But God doesn’t leave. His love doesn’t run dry. And He always answers.

As tears fall. When worries get big. When we scream in anger. When our hearts are broken. When we are just plain confused, and need some clarity. He’s a steady, devoted friend, even until graduation. Surely, all the way to the end.

“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

 
 

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It’s OK…He gets me

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I’m fully known, and loved by you. You won’t let go, no matter what I do.  -Tauren Wells, “Known”  

I have been blessed to have some fantastic friends who have been placed in my life. The kind that just seem to get me. Who know what I need at just the right time. And, give without being asked when I need it the most.

The tribe who sends silly pics to get me through the hard days at work. Surprises you with coffee and chocolate for an even tougher Wednesday evening, because they know how hard the first “shift” was, and they know this one may just kill ya.

The ones who send the “Hey, you were placed on my heart today, and I was just checking on you,” text. The one you get at the moment when…well, your heart was breaking just a little.

The ones who know what you are going to say before you say it (and stop you from saying it). Who you can give “that look” to from across the room, and they know just what it means (and make sure to remind you to “fix that face.”).

The man who comes home with your favorite candy because he knows, he just knows it’s been a hard day, and you could use just a little “joy.”

And, God bless the ones who utter the words: “Girl, you look down. You need a hug.” Because, they can see it in your face, and they want to carry your burden.

Yes, I am blessed with some amazing friends.

But, there are still times when I wrestle the darkness, and I feel alone. When I feel people don’t get certain parts of me.

The parts that hold in tangled emotions that if shared, I fear these people who have my back, would turn theirs and leave. The passions about which I feel so deep. The desires and the burdens of my heart. The reasons why I don’t just simply give up on some folks. The reasons why I cry…a lot. Why I am angry, and want to run away screaming.

So, instead…I just hide. I hide these things from those who love me. Because, I think they couldn’t possibly get me.

And, the truth is…sometimes they won’t. But God does. He knows me. He gets me.

O Lord, you have examined my heart and you know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I am far away. Psalm 139:1-2

He knows our anger. He knows our bitterness. Our hidden sorrows. Hurts. Passions. Desires. Those things we just don’t think we can explain to other people, and He gets us.

Even in our deepest, darkest, weepiest moods…the kicking, screaming, fighting, and crying ones. He gets us. Just like a blessed friend, He knows exactly when we need a reminder that we are loved, and sends a note slipping from the crevices of a Bible. A note, saved, but long forgotten.

Just like coffee from a friend. Chocolate from my man. Or a hug from my beloved coworker.

He gets you. Even if you think no one else does. He knows you. All of you, and He loves you just the same.

 

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2018 in Broken, Yet Beautiful

 

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He Wants to Be Your “Friend”

“Seek first the kingdom of God, and He will give you all you need.” Matthew 6:33

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A few months ago, I wrote about the phone addiction I witnessed while in line at Starbucks. At that time I disconnected from the constant need to keep scrolling through endless updates, and navigate my day with my nose buried in my mobile device.

And, I was doing pretty good. I had finally resisted the urge to spew every one of my wayward thoughts on-line for all my “friends” to see. I was pretty sure that my hiatus from constant status updates, email checks, and tweets had its impact. I now had the strength and willpower to let all the negativity that clogged my newsfeed go. I had learned to run to God with my problems instead of Facebook.

I think it’s OK to download again, I said.

I can limit myself, I said.

I can make sure the negative things I see don’t affect me. I am sure they won’t alter the way I see and love people, I said.

I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong.

The realization that I was once again turning to all my “friends” again wasn’t in any way earth shattering. It all began with what almost became a simple “I’m feeling sorry for myself, and I’m all alone” status.

Until that voice said to me: “January, what are you doing? Do you really want to go there again? I’m here. Talk to me.”

In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. Jeremiah 29:12

If I call on my greatest friend, he will listen. But, I had stopped calling on Him lately. Instead, I was relying on every “like,” and comment of agreement to confirm that I wasn’t alone. That someone else was listening. However, with every comment, I realized…I was still alone. There are still some things all my “friends” just couldn’t possibly understand.

The truth is, I wish I could say I only had that one moment of Facebook weakness, but that’s not the case.

See, I had quickly gone back to the mindless scroll, refresh, scroll, refresh throughout my day just as quickly as I had deleted the whole mess in the first place. Until I had spent more time on the couch scrolling and refreshing than playing and engaging with my kids.

Until I began the frequent eye-rolling at posts that quickly turned to judgment and condemnation. The judgment and condemnation which is so unlike the example I am supposed to be of Christ.

Until my days were filled with gruesome, negative, and cruel news stories again, and nothing at all to lift my spirits.

Until I once again began my morning reading Facebook posts, and not my Bible.

Until I started telling all my “friends” about my problems, and not once talking to God.

I had done it again.

I certainly wasn’t practicing what I had preached months ago.

And, I had once again sunk into a wave of negativity, judgment, and whoa-is-meing that was not at all becoming.

Don’t even think about it; don’t go that way. Turn away and keep moving. Proverbs 4:15

This is not to say that Facebook is an evil thing that must be avoided at all costs. There are some inspiring posts and stories out there. Friends I follow just for this reason. I have family, former co-workers, and high school classmates that I enjoy catching up with, and then other “friends” whose witty posts give me a much needed laugh. And, who can enjoy a football game without a little friendly rivalry?

But, honestly…for me? The constant scroll, refresh, scroll, refresh is a trigger for me. A trigger for my insecurities. A trigger for my past to come back to haunt me. A trigger for my often critical view of the world and people, and one more reason for me to say that I don’t have time for God.

One more reason for me to think I am all alone. That all my “friends” don’t care, don’t understand, don’t get what I go through day in and day out, don’t….whatever. When really the friends that do care, are saved in my phone contact list. The ones whose emails, kids’ names, addresses, and hidden insecurities I actually do know. The ones who I can actually call, say “I miss you. I need you right now. I feel alone and I’m having a crummy day,” and know they will come running to first sulk with me, and then tell me to suck it up, because we all have those days.

And, then there is that other “friend.” The one who has no Facebook or Twitter account, yet knows exactly when I’m alone and need support-whether its 11 at night or at 4 in the morning. The friend I have in Him. The comfort and peace I can find in Him to which no scrolling and refreshing, or hundreds and hundreds of social media “friends” could ever compare.

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2014 in Craving More of God

 

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A Friend at All TImes

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“M made me cry today on the bus.” This is the first thing my daughter says to me as she holds back tears on her last day of school.

“What do you mean? Why did she make you cry?”

“Well, she wouldn’t let our other friend sit with me!”

I’ll be honest. There was a large part of me that was extremely angry. See, M is the topic of quite a few conversations I have with my daughter in the afternoons after she has spent an evening bus ride being hurt and bullied by a “friend.” Then there was the other part of me-the part that hurt for my daughter. For her broken spirit. For the diminishing of the spirit of love she has in her heart for her friends. That part of me that has been there, too.

I knew it was finally time to have a heart to heart with my 7 year old little girl about true friendship. About how friends are called to really treat each other. Whether they are 7, or much older.

A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in times of need. Proverbs 17:17

“Why do you think your brother likes to sit with you on the bus?” And as she shrugs, her older brother hugs her, quietly telling his little sister, that it is because her brother loves her, and that friends should love each other as brother and sister, too.

We are commanded to treat each other with loyalty, respect, and love. At all times. Not just when times are good. But, when they are not. Respect our friends, not only when they agree with us and our choices, but even when they don’t. Stay loyal to our friends even if they choose a path we wouldn’t have picked for them. Respect and love our friends even if someone else wants to share that seat on the bus, at the lunch table, in the cafeteria or restaurant, in the workplace. At all times.

Encourage each other everyday while you have the opportunity. Hebrews 3:13

“And, also, honey…friends usually won’t make you cry.”

Unless, of course you are crying with your friend, because you feel their pain, or they feel yours. No, we don’t make our friends cry deliberately. We encourage them. We lift them up. We tell them how wonderful they are, even when they feel anything but. We give up our wants, our needs, our desires, our time, to stop and give to those we care about, even if it means we have to sacrifice a little of ourselves. We encourage at all times. In the middle of the night. When they feel lonely, scared, bruised. Even when we could use a little encouragement ourselves. And, sometimes we give up the seat on the bus so our friend can be comfortable.

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13

At the young age of 7, the last thing my daughter wants to hear is that she may have to find new friends, but for me-I want the kind of friend who will lay in the aisle of the bus if it meant I was taken care of, and I want to be the friend who does the same.

I want my daughter to know what it is like to have friends that would drop their plans, come running, or even whisk her away for a weekend, when her life has become one big crisis after another.

I want my daughter to know what it is like to have friends who will support her dreams, support her cause, support her children and their needs. Who will be a shoulder for her to cry on. Who will provide a laugh when life gets messy. Who will allow her to be herself, even when she may not even know who that may be.

And I want my daughter to be the same kind of friend.

Like my friends have been for me.

Loving. Encouraging. Supportive. Selfless.

At all times.

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2014 in Loving Others

 

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