Day 22: It’s not all about me

So I missed a day of writing yesterday.  It was one of those days, one that imploded on itself due to a complete inability on my part to back down after an altercation with our youngest son.  Even though I was following through on consequences as a result of his choices, I could have walked away sooner than I did.  But I didn’t. Because I was right, he was wrong, and I had to make sure he knew that.

I made it all about me.

Love.

‘it is not self-seeking’ (1 Cor 13:5 NIV)

‘isn’t always ‘me first” (1 Cor 13:5 The Message)

‘seeketh not her own’ (1 Cor 13:5 KJV)

Last night, I let my pride win, and there was not a scrap of humility in sight.

How often do we do this in our relationships?  With our spouses, kids, family, friends, work colleagues, general acquaintances?  I would so like to say “I’m really conscious about recognising and acknowledging the needs of the people around me, and putting them before myself because that’s what really loving people means”, and to much of a degree, that’s true. But the reality is, I fall short of this every day in all of my relationships.

Learning about what real love is in relationships has shown me that loving someone isn’t about what they’ll do for us, who they’ll be for us, how they can make us feel better, but it’s actually the opposite.  Loving someone is about finding out who we can be for them, how we can serve them, how we can make them feel better about themselves.  How we can help them – even if doing all of the above means putting aside what we want, what we need for a time, for the moment they need us more than we need them.

And if we all loved each other the same way, we’d all be meeting each other’s needs, all the time.  But we know that this isn’t what happens in reality.  And that’s when it gets hard – when people don’t show us love in the way we do them, or the way we think they should – for whatever reason – we take it personally.  Then if we’re not careful, we can let it affect how we keep loving them.  We can let our wounds become a barrier to living love for real. 

But we don’t have to let that happen.  We can choose to keep loving them when we’re hurt.  We can choose not to take things personally, and to look deeper into why people do what they do, to see their hurts and wounds and meet them in that place. Even if it means going somewhere that’s painful for us.  That’s real love.

As I’ve said before, I’m not talking about letting people take advantage of you, rolling over and letting them deliberately hurt you, manipulate you.  That’s not love, by any stretch of the imagination.  I’m talking about looking past people’s defensiveness and anger and lack of consideration and asking, why?  Why are you behaving like this?  Who hurt you?  What caused you pain?  How can I help you? How can I love you?

That’s love lived for real.

How does this happen for you in your life, your relationships? 

 

Day 20: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Don’t tell me you’re not singing that song in your head right now.  Or out loud.

‘It does not dishonour others’

That’s basically what verse 5 of this chapter of love says.  Love means honouring those around us, showing them respect.

Honour – a showing of usually merited respect (Merriam-Webster)

Respect –  a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way (M-W)

Real love is treating someone like they’re important.  Because they are.

Honouring them is saying ‘you are worth something because you are important, and you mean a lot to me’.  It doesn’t cost us anything, and can mean the whole world.

What can you do today to show someone they’re important to you?

Day 19: Love is not proud

The difficulty and resistance I’m feeling to writing this post is directly proportionate to how much I yelled at my younger kids tonight and sent them to bed in anger because I was frustrated with them.

Because they didn’t behave in a way that I expected them to.

Because I didn’t want to spend the energy in helping them re-direct their behaviour and make better choices.

Because I didn’t want to stand down from what I thought was best.

I didn’t want to back down in my pride.

I’m not talking about pride or being proud because I’m really happy about or please with something I’ve done, or someone else has done, I’m talking about being proud as in ‘having or showing the attitude of people who think that they are better or more important than others : having or showing too much pride’ (Merriam-Webster).

Strong’s translations of pride is ‘to be puffed up, to bear one’s self loftily, to be proud’.

To act like this is not love.

It is self-indulgent because I want to give in to how I feel – justified, righteous, more important.  And I am none of those things when I yell at my kids and get cross and hard-hearted.

My kid are the biggest challenge to my pride – Every. Single. Day.  Not because they’re particularly obnoxious or disobedient or challenging (of course, they can be all three and at once at times!), but because by virtue of them being children, and their typical child-like behaviour, their actions rub up against the ideals I have formed as to how people should behave.

My ideals are appropriate for myself, and possibly for other adults around me, but kids?  They’re still learning about this deal called life, what’s appropriate and what’s not, what works for them and what doesn’t.  It is their job to question and challenge and oppose and well, act like kids.  It just happens to be that often this doesn’t fit with how I think they should behave, and what I’m willing to deal with.

See, it’s all about me.

The opposite of being proud is being humble.  Humility.  And let me tell you, there is not greater lesson in life on humility that raising children.

Humility – ‘the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people : the quality or state of being humble’ (M-W)

I am not better than my children.  I may be older, more experienced in life and have authority over them, but I am not better than them.  I have learnt that when I lose my temper, this is not loving them, it is indulging myself, and I always, always feel horrible afterwards.

This is when I apologise to my kids.  As much as it pains me to do so some times – because the reason for my anger may have been justified –  the delivery of responding to the situation in a temper is never helpful or loving, and if I behaved like that towards an adult, I would apologise.  So when it comes to the kids, I do the same.  I apologise for my choice of actions, for not speaking in love, and as them for their forgiveness, then go on to discuss what’s happened and see if we can work out how we all got to that point (and avoid it next time!).

The fall always comes.  Without fail.  My kids are my ‘Achilles heel’ when it comes to pride, but they’re not the only thing I struggle with.  I am learning more and more as I travel this journey with Christ that humility is always the balm for the sting of the fall that comes when I’m prideful.  Which is every single day, in some form or another.

So tell me, what’s your ‘Achilles heel’ when it comes to pride?  Kids?  Your spouse?  Independence from God?  And how are you learning to deal with it?

 

Day 18: For your listening pleasure

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again –

Love is hard.

When I hear songs that speak truths that make up the core of my beliefs, they resonate within me like a hum, and this song is one of them.  I love the chorus:

And it kicks so hard, it breaks your bones
Cuts so deep, it hits your  soul
Tears your skin, and makes your blood flow
Its better that you know that love is hard

Yes.  A thousand times yes!

Well, that’s been my experience, anyway.

 I see lovers in the streets walking,
without a care.
They’re wearing out  loud
like there’s something in the air
Oooooh, and i don’t  care

They’re treading lightly
No they, don’t sink in
There’s no  tracks to follow
they don’t care where they going
hmm

And if  they’re lucky and they’ll,
they’ll get to see and if they’re
really really  lucky they’ll
get to feel.

And it kicks so hard,
it breaks your  bones.
Cuts so deep
it hits your soul.
Tears your skin and
makes  your blood flow.
It’s better that you know,
That love is hard.

Love  takes hostages,
gives them pain.
gives someone the power to
hurt you  again and again
oooh, but they don’t care

And if they’re lucky and  they’ll,
they’ll get to see and if they’re
really really lucky they’ll 
they’ll get to feel.
And if  they’re, they’re truly blessed
and they’re get to believe
and if you’re  dammed, you’ll never
let yourself be deceived.

And it kicks so  hard,
it breaks your bones.
Cuts so deep
it hits your soul.
Tears  your skin and
makes your blood flow.
It’s better that you know,
That  love is hard.

Hmmmmmmm…

Kicks so hard,
it breaks your  bones.
Cuts so deep
it hits your soul.
Tears your skin and
makes your blood flow.
It’s  better that we know.

And it kicks so hard,
it breaks your  bones.
Cuts so deep
it hits your soul.
Tears your skin and
And makes  your blood flow.
It’s better that you know,
That love is hard.

Love is hard, love is hard.

If it was easy,
it wouldn’t mean nothing, no.

 Yes, it is better that we know.

What are your songs?  What are those songs that you never tire of listening to because they speak truth to you?

You were born to make art

Uncover the art you were made to live :: A Million Little Ways

the nester, via pinterest

This book.

This book.

The words.

The message.

The beauty breathed in and out as you read it.

The gentle encouragement to embrace the belief that we make art in everything that we do – whether we write, make food, build houses, wipe dirty noses, dance, milk cows, sit and listen to someone’s pain, pack boxes, paint, teach, make beds – whatever it is, it is all art.

If you are an artist – and here’s the thing, if you’re living and  breathing, you are and artist – then get this book.  Read it.  Highlight the words that you know are meant for you to hear (my Kindle version looks like a rainbow).  Dog ear the pages that you will go back to time and time again.  Carry it with you.  But believe what is within – you are an artist, because you are created in the image of God, and He is the Creator, the ultimate Artist.

I haven’t even got through the whole book yet, and I know this will become one of my staple go-tos for encouragement and inspiration.  I knew it would even before I started reading it, because nearly everything Emily writes makes me think we are twins separated at birth.  With identical brains and thoughts.  I shouldn’t be by now, but I am continually surprised by how Emily is able to take the words and thoughts floating around in my head, and put them into readable sentences that I couldn’t.

(in)courage’s Bloom book club is featuring A Million Little Ways as it’s fall selection, and I for one cannot wait to take part.  I would really encourage you to get a copy of the book (available at Koorong and Word in Australia) and take part of the study, there’s something special about gathering in a community to share a journey like this.

And if you need any more convincing, watch the clip below, you won’t regret it:

Now, go make art.

Day 17: Love is…..getting a dog

No.  That’s not in the Bible.

Except it is.  Because love is doing something for someone else that you might not necessarily love for yourself.

I’m following Tim and Christian Lewis at Love Coming Home on their 31 Day journey, and my heart was smothered in gooeyness with a story they posted this week about their son.  Go and read it and I dare you not to need a box of tissues.

This is love lived real.

Day 16: Love does not boast

Boasta statement in which you express too much pride in yourself or something you have, have done or are connected to in some way (Merriam Webster dictionary)

Vaunteth (KJV) – I. to boast one’s self II. a self display, employing rhetorical embellishments in extolling one’s self excessively.

In short, boasting = showing off, bragging, blowing your own trumpet.

The stark reality is that without God, we can’t do anything. Oh, we can ‘do’ plenty of things, of course, in fact we can live our whole lives without involving Him at all.  I certainly tried it. Didn’t work out so well for me.  Big difference when I realised that if I let Him guide me, actually listen to what He is trying to tell me, then life goes a whole lot better.

Anything I do, any talents and gifts and ability  I use in my life, it all comes from God.  Writing, encouraging, working, parenting, running, singing, organising a household – I only have the ability to do all of this because it’s how God created me, it’s what He made me to do, and so all the credit goes to Him, not me.  I can claim the glory for it all, but it would be an empty boast, because I know my abilities and strength don’t come from me, but from my God who loves me.  It would be like taking credit for something someone else did, claiming someone else’s work as my own.

In the classic ‘Streams in the Desert’ devotional, L. B. Cowan writes about the Israelites journey in trusting God’s leading, and what they went through and went without to be more like Him.

“This is the description of those throughout the ages who ‘follow the Lamb wherever he goes’ (Rev 14:4). If they had chosen selfishly for themselves or if their friends had chosen for them, they would have made other choices.  Their lives would have shone more brightly here on earth but less gloriously in His kingdom”.

It is easy to promote ourselves and what we can do, but if we don’t acknowledge the source of our abilities, it’s an empty satisfaction.  When we love, we don’t claim glory for ourselves, we give credit where credit’s due – to God, to our spouse, kids, friends, whomever.  We can, however, boast in the cross, and in God, who is the One who gives us all the good things we have.

 

Day 15: The story of us (Part 5)

It took 3 years after we separated, a year after we were divorced, for us to start talking to each other again.  Oh, we’d had some conversations during that time, over the phone – once we’d started court proceedings in the early days, we didn’t see each other in person.  It was just too hard, and never ended well.  We had a few phone conversations, but primarily any communication was via my mother-in-law, or brief notes.

A few times, I had asked my husband through his mum if he wanted to start meeting face-to-face when we dropped the kids off and picked them up, but he wasn’t ready.  And in hindsight, I probably wasn’t really, either.  Throughout this whole time, I thought I was coping with everything fine, that I had ‘gotten over’ our marriage breakdown and was looking ahead to all the possibilities life had to offer.  I certainly wasn’t living in regret and wallowing in self-pity – I was studying for my nursing degree, I had (and still have) a wonderful new family within my church and was loving the discovery of living life in Christ, I started running and had a great social life.  For the first year after we separated, I went to counselling regularly and that was a huge help in learning how to live life day-to-day in the aftermath of the death of a marriage.

But there was always something missing, and for the longest time, I couldn’t work out what it was.  Not in my head, anyway, but deep within, I knew what it was.  I just chose to ignore it completely.  He was missing, my husband, my love, the boy I knew I was going to marry even before we began.  The part of my life that had grown to envelop him and his love for so many years was empty, a ragged, gaping wound.  And I just ignored it, as much as I could.  I thought it was easier to just pretend the emptiness wasn’t there, to fill it up with other things and to believe that a new relationship would make everything better, would make me whole again.

Not quite.

In fact, not at all.  God wouldn’t let me ignore how I felt, wouldn’t let me pretend the emptiness wasn’t there, and slowly, over time, He led me into that space I kept trying to run away from and taught me how to just sit there and let Him love me in that place.  And to do that, He started by bringing my husband and I back together, in the most uneventful of circumstances.

My mother-in-law was going to be away for a few weeks, and there wasn’t anyone else who could facilitate the kids going between our homes, so the time had come where it was up to us to start making it work.  And to put it simply, it did.  3 years of being apart had given us the time and space – and grace – for the rawness of our wounds and hurts to settle, to start to heal, and we were able to feel safe with each other again.  We started by meeting in a carpark and then at his mum and dad’s house, and I smile now at thinking how polite we were with each other.  From the first time we met with the kids, I felt such peace and a very real sense of God’s presence, and I knew that it was His perfect timing.

And I knew that I still loved him.  That I had never stopped loving him, as much as I’d tried to convince myself that I had.  I perhaps didn’t love him as I did when we were married, but that deep, true, forever love was still there, and I only wanted to see the best things in life happen for him.  Which, to my mind, included him meeting someone new and forming a new relationship, because he deserved that.  Just like I did.  I fully believed that we would both be happy in new relationships, and that we were in a place where we’d each be ok with that happening for the other.

See, I had it all planned out, because I thought I knew what would be the best thing for all of us.  And really, it’s easier to start again with something new than to repair something that’s broken, isn’t it?  Isn’t that what our throwaway culture tells us?  Don’t worry if it’s broken, you can always get something shiny and new?  It’s what I saw in broken marriages and relationships all around me – broken hearts trying to find healing and wholeness in something new, in someone new.  It’s what had happened for my parents after they divorced, in that they both remarried. I thought that’s what you did after a divorce.

I saw new relationships and new marriages after divorce everywhere I looked.  I didn’t see people holding onto hope for their marriage to be repaired after its’ destruction.

I didn’t see anyone believing that people can change, that what is broken can be made new.

I didn’t see people living the reality of love – myself included.

I didn’t see people fighting to hold onto what they once declared they were to committed to.

I didn’t see ‘for better or for worse’ being lived out in all its’ brutal reality.

I didn’t see people saying ‘This was my fault, too, and I know I need to change’.

And yet I still saw the beauty of love being lived real in the marriages of my friends and family who got it.  Who knew that marriage was a lifetime deal, through everything that life threw at them, and that you don’t give up on your marriage or your spouse just because of how you feel.

Who knew that love isn’t a feeling, but it’s a verb, an action, a choice you make every single day.

Who were living love and marriage as God created it, a promise and a covenant that binds hearts and lives together forever.

That is where my hope came from, where the glimmer of possibility started to emerge.  Not just in the words I read in scripture, not from something someone tried to tell me, but by seeing love and marriage lived for real.  The good, the bad, and the ugly, the easy and the hard, the joy and the sorrow.

As my husband and I got to know each other again, I became more sensitive to everything related to love and marriage around me.  it was like my senses were heightened to everything I wanted to know, I was hungry for information and examples of how to love someone, how marriage works, how you keep your commitment of ’till death do us part’.  And yet I still didn’t believe that I’d need any of that for my husband and I, that we were still destined to be married to other people.  Yes, I know, you can say it – I was a slow learner.  Which was ok, because God is infinitely patient.

But at the same time, my senses became more attuned to the hurt and wounding that happens in marriage, and it was through this time that I developed a heart for seeing marriages not just work, but thrive.  I have often said that I’ve learnt everything I know now about marriage from being divorced, and I am very grateful for the lessons along the way (although you wouldn’t have heard me saying that at the time!!!).

So my husband and I continued to get to know each other again, and slowly and cautiously started to believe that we could actually make this work, that any part of life we created to work together in wouldn’t collapse around us again.  And it was in taking this risk, in having to trust God completely that I started to learn about real love, about living out love for real every day.  He was making something new, bringing out beauty from the rubble and ashes, and creating new life in us.

It was only the beginning, and we were in for the ride of our lives.

To catch up on our story, follow the links below:

Introduction

The story of us (Part 1)

The story of us (Part 2)

The story of us (Part 3)

The story of us (Part 4)

Trust and hope and perseverance (Part 1)

Day 14: Love does not envy

comparison

via pinterest

‘Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have’ (The Message)

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with this every day.  For me, it’s not about things, objects, ‘stuff’, but more about ability, as such.

I wish I could write better (or as well as her, or that blogger, or that author).

I wish I naturally had more patience (like that mum I know who I’ve never heard raise her voice at her kids and never seems to get frustrated with her family).

I wish I was more disciplined by nature (like my friend who is always so organised and has everything under control and exercises every day and only cooks gluten free….).

I wish I had more confidence in my opinions and expressing them (like so many people I know who are so sure of what they say).

I wish I felt assured that I am enough, and I don’t need to keep trying to be more (like so many women I know in real life and online whom I admire).

Before my husband and I came back together again, I so desperately, desperately wanted to be in a relationship, just like the majority of my friends and people I knew – even though I knew their relationships were far from perfect.

I wish, I wish, I wish……..

I can get so caught up wishing for things I don’t have (or think I don’t have – it’s all about perception), that I lose sight of what I do have.

At the absolute basic level of life, I wake up breathing every day, I have a roof over my head, food on my plate several times a day and people who love me.  Everything else is gravy.

I have the ability and the opportunity to write every day, because I was born into a world that values education and literacy, and encouraging creativity.  I write because it is how God has created me, and I’ve been able to realise that.

Whenever I’m impatient in life, with anything, it gives me the opportunity to practice grace – with myself, with other people, with whatever situation I’m in.  If I’m cross with the kids or frustrated with my husband, it’s because they’re in my life, and I love them.  Because we are all human beings, we are imperfect, and we all rub each other up the wrong way at times – if we didn’t have that, we wouldn’t become impatient and cross and frustrated.  So I’ll take impatience over nothing any day.

I may not be as disciplined as I *think* I should be, but I am plenty organised enough to provide my family with what they need, to perform in my job effectively and efficiently, and to know how to take care of myself.

When I am sure of what I know and what I believe, I have no fear in speaking it out, and am learning to stand in the courage of my convictions, even when they fly in the face of what the world around me thinks.  I’m learning that whatever we think or do or say, if we do and say it with love and kindness and respect, and without judgement, it is heard and received as it’s intended.  I still have the element of ‘what will they think of me?’, but I am learning to counter that instead with ‘what does God think of me?’, to live with the power and courage that the Spirit gives us .  It’s working.

I was created in the image of God, and He has claimed me as His own.  I am enough for Him, so how can I not believe that I am enough? Being anything more or less than who I already am will not make Jesus love me any more or any less, He loves me just as I am.

And for the whole time I was praying and hoping and despairing and crying over the desire for a new relationship, God was working in me – breaking me, moulding me, reshaping me into being more like Him (I’m still a long, long way away from that).  Without that experience, I would not be who I am now, and my husband and I wouldn’t be together again.

Strong’s Concordance gives the translation of ‘envieth’ (as in the KJV) as ‘to have warmth of feeling for or against: – affect, covet (earnestly), (have) desire, (move with) envy, be jealous over, (be) zealous, zealously affect’. Love doesn’t feel these things, doesn’t behave this way – we do, because of our humanness, but we can choose not to, when we choose love, when we choose to live like Christ, and not give in to our self.  Believe me, I know that that is far easier said than done, and it’s something I have to be conscious of and work on every single day.

God gives us every single thing we need, even if it’s not what we think.  He knows what we need – not want, but need – more than what we do.  Wanting something else takes our attention away from what we already have.  Envy steals faith.  Jealousy binds up our hearts with bitterness and the desire for what we don’t have.

But when we love, when we choose faith and trust over envy and jealousy, we see what we have, the blessings before us that God has showered on us with abundance.  Which He does because He loves us more than we could ever fathom.

What is your ‘weak point’ when it comes to envy and jealousy?  How do you counter that, and try not to let it affect how you live?