Sunday, June 11, 2017

Dear Graduates...Dear Moms...Dear Everyone: Be Kind to Yourself

This theme of needing to be kind to ourselves has been popping up in my life over the past couple of weeks, and I wanted to share it with those who recently graduated. But the more and more I reflect on it the more I believe we all need to hear it or be reminded of it no matter what stage of life we are in. Therefore...
Dear Graduates, (Dear Mom's, Dear Everyone,)
This is such an exciting time in your life, to celebrate accomplishments and look forward with hope to all that the future could bring. Over the course of your graduation and transition to your next endeavor I'm sure you'll hear so much advice on how to be successful. You'll hear beautiful speeches about achieving your dreams and receive flowers and cards filled with wonderful words of congratulations and praise. You will celebrate your success and you should, because it is a great one!! I am proud of you!
But one thing that is rarely talked about on these days of celebration and dreaming about a wonderful future, is that there's a very good chance you will fail. I don't mean to rain on your parade or discourage you from chasing your dreams. I mean that on the path to success there are obstacles and risks and everyone who has ever been successful has also failed, often many, many times before finally finding their way. What separates the very successful, of course, is how they handle their failure. Do they get discouraged? Do they give up? Do they continue doing the same things expecting different results?  No! They keep trying. They learn from their mistakes and change their actions. They don't dwell on their failings but on their talents and potential to be successful next time.

So the advice I want to share with you as you set out into the world is: Be kind to yourself. When you fail, because you will, at something, or at a lot of kind to yourself. No one says worse things to us than we say to ourselves. And it's the negative voice that makes us want to give up, or makes us believe we won't ever succeed. So, when you fail, be kind. Talk to yourself as you would to a friend. Use encouraging words, see your positive attributes and your potential to succeed.

The second part to this advice, is that most of all, I'm not really talking about your success or failure with your career, although it relates as well. I'm really talking about your success and failure with relationships. Because those are the ones we really lose sleep over. At the end of the day, at the end of your life, the successes and failures at work will matter so very little, but the ones that will weigh heavy on your heart or fill it with joy have to do with the way you are in relationship with people.

This has been so prevalent in my life right now as a stay-at-home-mom, because honestly, most days I feel like a complete failure. There are 4 tiny people completely dependent on me for their every need. It has pushed me to the end of myself when I feel I have nothing left to give. And at that place I am not the mom I want to be. I fail them. I fail myself. I fail my husband. No failure I have ever made in the classroom or at work has ever left me with the terrible feeling that sits in my gut after I have lost my temper with these precious tiny people. I always tell people, I used to think I was a pretty good person, and then I got married.  My flaws were a lot more obvious when I was living with another person, but having children brought sins to the surface I had no idea were in me!

It's so ugly really, selfishness in all it's forms as a parent. And it comes out in a lack of patience, in harsh words, in LOUD words, in words that fail to see good. Maybe it's a whole terrible day, but most often its five minutes that I can't take back, words I can't retrieve, a tone I can't soften.

Maybe for you it's a family member you struggle to repair a relationship with. Maybe judgment always trumps love. Maybe you try and try but it always ends the same. Maybe its a friendship that seems irreparable. Maybe its the way you spoke to someone at Walmart that you may never see again. Maybe you really want to overcome this sin but your best efforts fail. When we know we were made to be better, but we fail, it hurts the most.

It's good that we feel that way to some degree, we need to know the difference between right and wrong, good choices and bad. We need to want to do better. But there is a danger of getting stuck in the guilt and rut of failure, and not believing we can get out. This is when it is so important to be kind to yourself. When you are at your lowest, when you see your failures, when you feel that hurt in your gut, when you know you were made to be kind. Because the voice saying all those terrible things about you isn't the voice of God. He still sees your potential. He still see's the good. He still thinks your worth dying for.

If He believes in you, then you should too. You will fail, at one, or ten or fifty relationships with friends, and coworkers and family and especially the people closest to you. When you do, be kind, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, try again. This is what defines successful people, at work and in relationship, they continue to try.

Saint Francis de Sales said it much better than I have:

"Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about redeeming them--every day begin anew."

Every Day Begin Anew.

Sometimes I even begin the day anew at lunch time.

The same day I read the quote from St Francis this song came across my phone...pretty amazing the way God reminds me that He's paying attention to me. I've been letting the refrain replay over and over again as I go about my day, I hope you will too.

Praying for you to be kind to yourself today!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Thank You for Dandelions

Some see weeds, popping up all over the place where people don't want them to grow, spoiling the orderly look of an all green lawn. But I see a beautiful yellow flower, that is so resilient it grows even where it is unwanted, un-cared for, in the harshest conditions of drought or flood, cold or heat. I see a flower that brightens areas that people don't want color in, that brings variety and diversity to the mundane.  I see something that brings a lot of joy.
They pick them wherever they see them, bringing them to me proudly, presenting them as a prized possession saying "I love you!" as they hand them over and wait for their kiss.  They are a prized possession. I still ooh and aah at them and smell them and put them in water every time. They are beautiful on their own and they are breathtaking in the tiny hands of my children who hold them up to me with such love in their eyes.
Tomorrow we're celebrating mother's day, and all over the country moms will be disappointed at the way the day turns out. They will have wanted to go out to eat when their husband made food at home. They'll have wanted a break from the kids but the kids wanted to play. They'll have expected rest or some certain type of day that didn't come. And they will be frustrated that their chance is yet again over as the only day of the year for them to "catch a break" is ending. I have been that mom.
But tomorrow all over the world, mothers who have lost their children, or mothers who have never been able to have children will also be disappointed at the way the day turns out. They will try their best to ignore it or to make it nice for someone else, but all their best efforts will still leave them fighting back tears and with an emptiness inside that seems to get bigger with each day. I have been that mom too.
Maybe that's why I love dandelions. Because I've learned that when I let go of my expectations for the way the day, or my life, must be, I can see the beauty already there. If you are expecting green lawn and red roses, dandelions disappoint. But if you just wait to see what you'll get, you'll be thrilled when those pretty yellow flowers pop up and add color to your world.
Now maybe we can transmit this same thought to children. If we have a plan for things to be neat and orderly, children will disappoint. If we have a plan for big careers or fancy cars, children will  get in the way. They might take all our energy or money. But if we stop our planning and wishing and wait to see what God will do, we might see how children shine light into the dark. They are incredible, the way they brighten up our "orderly" lives. The way they persevere despite the harshest conditions and still smile so sweetly. They are resilient the way they fight to live even when they are un-wanted or un-cared for. And they bring a million times more joy than any career or fancy car.
If we're still wishing for roses, we'll never appreciate the beauty of the dandelions in front of us, and wow are they beautiful. I guess that's why God keeps sending them, to bring light into the dark, to add variety to the mundane.
Thank you God for dandelions and thank you for my beautiful children, I am so incredibly blessed to be their mom.

Monday, April 17, 2017

You Aren't Good Enough

"You aren't good enough." We've all heard those words, haven't we? Rarely ever in verbal form, but echoing through our minds as the day wears on. Here's what's incredible. Last week I shared Isabella's story and over a thousand people read it. It's probably nothing in the terms of social media, but to me, that her story can touch the lives of more than a thousand people is amazing. The comments and reactions went straight to our hearts.
Since Bella's adoption and since adding another 1 year old to our family we've gotten so many comments about how great we are, even to be called saints and told how lucky the kids are to have us. I have a confession: when I hear those things I cringe a little.
The words sting. I am not a saint. I am not great. To be viewed that way feels insincere and I fight the urge to correct the speaker.
The truth is, there are many days, if not most, that I'm quite sure I have appropriately earned the Worst Mother of the Year Award every year since 2011. Most days, I end the day laying my head on the pillow re-playing the numerous scenes from the day I completely messed up and severely regret. How many times did I raise my voice today? How many times was I impatient? How often did I just fail to see what they were really needing? You don't see my temper lost, my worst self, but I do. I know all my failings and in case I forget the devil is sure to whisper them to me at every opportunity.
"You're not good enough to be a parent. These kids deserve someone better. Why are you taking more children when you are not parenting the ones you have well? Other parents never yell. Other parents do a much better job with discipline and teaching...."I could really go on for hours with the criticisms I have about myself. They're not all just about parenting, there's a long list about the wife I am and my roles in ministry within the church. The devil can be so convincing, and has often made me question if I should be doing what I am doing.
He is right. I am not good enough. I'm am not a good enough wife or mother or friend or youth minister or .....
BUT God thinks I am. He doesn't just think it, He knows it. He called me to this work, to be this man's wife, to be these children's mother, to be in the lives of these specific people. It wasn't by accident that I stumbled upon them. I've heard it said that the devil knows our name but calls us by our sins, God knows our sins but calls us by our name.
All we have to do is pick any character from the bible and we will find the least obvious choice, the most flawed, the most unqualified for the job, and we see that is who God selects. He doesn't focus on their failings but their potential. This lent especially I was reflecting on the donkey that carried Jesus into Jerusalem as the crowds worshipped and laid palm branches at his feet. He was a colt, untrained, never been ridden, too small. Probably the least qualified donkey in town. There was nothing special about him, and very few probably ever noticed him or his qualities or flaws. But He brought Jesus to a lot of people. He played an essential, but not noticeable role in a very important part of the story of salvation.
Don't hear me saying that the sins I struggle with are ok. I have a lot of work to do, I need the grace of forgiveness and the help of the holy spirit to overcome them. I know I want and need to be a better mom to these incredible children who deserve only the best. But do hear me say that if you're waiting to be perfect to share the gospel, then it will never be shared. None of us is good enough, but we are asked to try, to go where we are led and bring Jesus to people in our imperfect way that He makes perfect.
I tried something different tonight, when I was re-hashing the terrible moments of the day I happened to be clicking through photos I had recently uploaded to the computer. You know what, the photos told a very different story than my recollection did. Those really were genuine smiles and laughs on my computer screen. They really do a lot of fun things and enjoy life. One that I happened upon was my tiny farmer Samuel who grabbed the pail when we were outside and said "I feed cows mommy!"

He went right to get the grain just like he's seen his Dad do. Since he was willing, I helped him put a little grain in his pail and he proudly headed toward the cows who were quick to line up at the sound of the grain in the bucket. He looked so small heading towards those big, hungry animals. It took all of his strength to carry that bucket that was 1/20th full of grain.
He did it all by himself and came back for a second bucket. That time, it was a little more full and he turned back afraid maybe he had taken on a job he couldn't handle. So I came close, walked beside him, and helped him carry and dump it.  The cows were happy. I could have done it myself 20 times faster, but the joy that He and I both got because he did it was the goal. 
I suppose the lesson He's trying to teach me is that it really isn't all on my shoulders as it weighs heavy each night. He enjoys letting me help, but he'll gladly carry the load when it gets too heavy.

Thank You God for believing in me, even when I give you so many reasons not to, even when I don't feel good enough, because this really is a lot of fun, and it's really nice to be included in your work.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Introducing Isabella Marie Full

Sometimes....maybe most of the time....our prayers are answered in ways we never expect.

2 years ago in January a baby girl was born 10 weeks early in a hotel weighing 3 lbs 4 oz. Somehow (I think we all know how), she survived. She was placed into custody of child protective services, a social worker overseeing her medical care, nurses and doctors coming and going, but no mother to hold or care for her. Then, doctors discovered she had down syndrome. So far, its safe to say it was a difficult start to life. She overcame each health challenge and complication, slowly but steadily, sometimes with setbacks, but she slowly grew and got stronger.

We learned about her birth and began to pray. She is a biological sibling to our son Nathaniel, which made her feel like our daughter. I heard that she was tiny and clinging to life and alone in the hospital and I wanted nothing more than to race down there and hold her in my arms. But I know "the system" and it doesn't work like that. So we waited. And prayed. And waited. And almost went crazy thinking about her lying there alone. I didn't even know her name. That's when I prayed: "She needs a mother. If I cannot be there for her, Mary, please be her mother. Let her feel your peace and comfort." And I clung to that prayer that Mary would provide the comfort of a mother that I could not.

We soon found out she had been given a foster family from Sioux Falls who visited her often and loved her a lot. It was a relief to know she was being loved.
Finally, we got to meet her in May, still in the NICU.

It was love at first sight. Laying her back down in a hospital crib at the end of the visit and walking away though was not a feeling I ever want to have again.
Then we continued to wait, for paperwork that took MONTHS longer than it was supposed to. Nathaniel got to meet her a little later, still waiting...
Finally, in July she came to our house for her first visit, and permanently in August.
 *Ashley Stoel Photography & Design
We spent the next year in custody limbo and then prepared for her to return home to her biological parents but they decided after some visits to allow us to adopt her instead. (Thank you St. Therese!)

I didn't set out to adopt a child with down syndrome. Actually, a child with high medical needs was on our list of "probably cannot accommodate" for foster care. But God began to work on our hearts, and by the time it was our decision we knew He had already made it. She was our daughter.
On March 20 after 2 years of waiting, we finally got to hear the judge say that she would be "our own lawful child".  My sister-in-law gifted us with a beautiful lamp with her name and the phrase "For this child I prayed". It is beautiful, but when I put it up in her room, I lingered on that phrase. "Did I pray for her?" I wondered. Of course after I knew about her, but before she was born? I remember that I prayed for 4 years for Nathaniel, and for 3 years for Samuel, but Samuel had just been 5 months old when this little girl was born, I was wanting to expand our family but probably not so immediately. And I know I didn't pray for a daughter with down syndrome. But the more and more I looked at it I realize I prayed for her for a long time too, I just didn't realize it.
I prayed for patience, and she teaches me and stretches me in that way every day. I prayed for compassion and she requires it. I prayed to better understand the heart of Jesus, and she shows me. I prayed for my children to make a difference in the world, and she already has.
Tonight I read the book "You're Here for a Reason" by Nancy Tillman to my children. Please buy a copy for your kids or someone you love, because the words are so incredibly true: 
"You're here for a reason, you certainly are. The world would be different without you, by far. If not for your hands and your eyes and your feet, the world, like a puzzle, would be incomplete. Even the smallest of things that you do, blossom and multiply far beyond you."
The day after Isabella's adoption was World Down Syndrome Awareness Day.  There was a statistic shared that day that I cannot shake from my mind. The post was titled: "The most dangerous place in the world for a child with down syndrome is his mother's womb." It shared that 92% of babies with down syndrome are aborted and never allowed to live. When I look at my daughters beautiful face, that statistic rattles me. My heart grieves for those mothers that will never receive the gift that was meant for them. I hurt for the world that is different and missing an important part. Most of all, I hurt because it's like the majority of the world is saying Isabella is not a person, and how mistaken they are! She is sweet and so lovingly blows kisses and wipes the faces of her dolls like the most gentle mother. She is wild and crazy when wrestling and chasing her brothers. And she has attitude and makes sure we know it when she wants to get her way. She is the same as all of my children, life (just like it started for her) is just harder.
Over the past two years Bella has worked with Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapists. Low muscle tone from down syndrome makes it much harder to do things like roll over, crawl, sit up, walk, etc. Children with down syndrome have shorter limbs which makes a lot of things more difficult, especially climbing stairs. Speech and eating are difficult because of low muscle tone in the mouth and tongue. Often people with down syndrome understand so much more than they can communicate. Therapists work with us to give her the extra help she needs to do all those things.
I have watched Bella face incredible challenges. Everything for her in life is harder. We, especially as parents, instinctively want to decrease someone's struggle. We don't want things to be so hard. I can see how someone faces this diagnoses in their child and looks for a way out for their child. But I wish you all could see the joy in my daughters face each time she does something she's been trying for such a long time to do. I wish you could see that the things that are difficult are always the best things. Isn't it interesting that the people who life is "the hardest" for seem to be the ones who also smile the most? It's not coincidence.

I'm not a perfect mom and it isn't easy parenting Bella. She needs extra patience, consistency, and a lot of time, and I come up short on all of those things most days. I would never call it easy... but I always call it a blessing.

"You're here for a reason. If you think you're not, I would just say that perhaps you forgot - a piece of the world that is precious and dear, would surely be missing if you weren't here. If not for your smile and your laugh and your heart, this place we call home would be minus a part. Thank goodness you're here! Thank goodness times two! I just can't imagine a world without you." - Nancy Tillman


Monday, March 13, 2017

Call Me Ridiculous

Last Sunday I took 5 kids to Mass. 3 two year olds, a five year old and a one year old. Two don't walk yet, one has down syndrome. And my husband was gone, so I was left to wrangle them all by myself. I'm sure it was quite the sight as I walked in holding one on each hip letting the toddlers run ahead to "our pew". I saw it on a lot of faces, that this wasn't a good idea, and trust me, I agreed. I won't say "I know what people are thinking" because your thoughts are your own, but I assume a lot of people are often thinking our lifestyle is a little ridiculous, and if I had not been the one bringing 5 little children to Mass and instead had watched it unfold, I would have also jumped on board the "that is not a good idea" train. But I wanted to share why we again are overwhelmed with diapers and toddlers that run insanely fast and cupboards overflowing with sippy cups.

We are just a few weeks away from finalizing our daughters adoption. When we do that, I will share her beautiful photos and more about the last two years of our life. For now, I'll tell you that she is just starting to walk at 2 years old because she has down syndrome and was also born very premature and had to overcome a lot of health issues. In some ways she is very much a 2 year old and in other ways she is more like a one year old just learning to walk and talk and not throw food on the floor, etc. Our son Samuel is 2 1/2 and not yet potty trained because, well frankly he doesn't want to, and he is pretty vocal about what he wants and doesn't want to do (there might be some sayings out there about curly hair and mischief that I am a believer in). Nathaniel is 5, turning 6 soon, and we began homeschooling in January (which has been wonderful, but is a post for another day!) This is a typical day at our house and what we sometimes feel like: (collapsed horse-y ride)

So when the phone rang wondering if we would give a 1 year old a home, I hesitated. I knew that it meant 3 kids in diapers, 2 that don't walk. I knew it meant more laundry and less sleep and being stretched in another direction when I'm already stretched so thin. I knew it meant I wouldn't have the freedom to go to church or the grocery store or anywhere public by myself unless I can figure out how to grow a third arm. And most of all, I knew that she is the same age our last foster daughter was when she first came, and my heart is still broken from her leaving this summer. I knew that most likely we would be signing up for an incredible heartbreak.
I'm sure a lot of people would even call it ridiculous to say yes. I know a lot of parents with large families that have shared the same feelings, that people must think they are ridiculous because they keep having children. Unfortunately, the devil has worked very hard to convince us that children are burdens, to see the sacrifice of all of those things I thought about: time, sleep, money. When we focus on the sacrifice, we fail to see the incredible gift we are being given. God is literally giving you another human being. THAT. IS. INCREDIBLE. And in our case, God AND another person are giving us their precious child. I can't even wrap my head around it when I snuggle them close. Someone gave them to me!! Whether forever or for a few months, there is no greater gift!
I know all this, although I still have to remind myself when I have just put Samuel back in bed for the 5th time and I hear his tiny footsteps pattering through the hallway, I remind myself how long I prayed for the patter of tiny feet to echo through our quiet house. I still need reminders that they are gifts on the difficult days too.
I would also guess I hesitated because even if we see children as gifts, we still want to make sure we get to live "our life" the way we want to. I laugh to remember that I used to tell people I wanted to have my babies in multiples so I could have my babies all at once and get back to work as soon as possible. (God has a funny way of giving us what we ask for just in a different way...) The problem with this is at the very core of it is selfishness. It's wanting what we want out of life. And when we focus on what we want and the lifestyle we would like to live, children (or too many) get in the way of that.
What we miss, when we let selfishness make our decisions, are the gifts God wants to give us. When we grasp for something else our hands aren't open to what He is giving us. We reach for one apple, when He offers the whole entire garden. We all know none of us would ever give any of our children back, even if they were "unplanned" we know their worth and the joy they bring. Yet how often do we say "no" to the children God wants to give us? Maybe He is encouraging you to adopt. Maybe your heart is closed to having more children. Maybe you don't have time for more friends or volunteering at your church. Maybe your heart is closed to loving the people in your life in the sacrificial way He is asking. There are great gifts we may be missing because we believe we can create or plan something better that's not so ridiculous.

This was the first reading at Mass the day we got the phone call:

"Let brotherly love continue.
Do not neglect hospitality,
for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.
Be mindful of prisoners as if sharing their imprisonment,
and of the ill-treated as of yourselves,
for you also are in the body.
Let marriage be honored among all
and the marriage bed be kept undefiled,
for God will judge the immoral and adulterers.
Let your life be free from love of money
but be content with what you have,
for he has said, I will never forsake you or abandon you.
Thus we may say with confidence:

The Lord is my helper,
and I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?

Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you.
Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Hebrews 13:1-8

It was obvious the answer was "yes" because God gave us each other so that we could create life, not be closed to the gifts that He is wanting to give us, even if we don't get to keep them very long, and even if they involve sacrifice, and EVEN if everyone else thinks it's ridiculous.

Our foster daughter who left this summer was visiting us last weekend which is why we ended up with 5 in church. She keeps asking me to pick her up so she can touch Jesus on the crucifix in our dining room. She touches it with such care and looks on him so intently.

My challenge for all of us this Lent is to spend time every day looking at a crucifix. Not just a glance, but gaze for a full minute or two. Because we must learn from it. We must learn how to live for others and not ourselves. We must learn how to sacrifice our own dreams, wishes, goals, lives. We must learn to do what He did, and do it with love, not bitterness. Because only in learning to be last will we find what our hearts are searching for.

It was pretty ridiculous really what He did. Loving people who were cruel to him, even to the point of death. Most would have probably said it seemed crazy, but He knows what I know: they are worth it.

You are worth it.

Praying for you as you love ridiculously this lent!

(Oh, and in case you're wondering "why didn't I just stay home from church on Sunday?" It's because I really believe in the GIFT of the Eucharist and not the burden of an obligation on Sunday AND my church family is incredible and I knew they would help and they did. I wish you could have seen they way my parish loves me as a mom when they grab my kids when they're running away, smile and play with them, pick up the things they cleaned out of my purse, hold their hand on the way out to the car, and teenagers that sit and hold my children for the entire mass or catch them on the way up to communion. Believe me, I still left church exhausted, but feeling so loved. Thank you to everyone who welcomes children at church, because it would be so much "easier" to stay home, but you make it possible for us to come.)

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Problem with Fitting In

She just got back from a mission trip and was talking to her friends. They asked a few questions and then moved on to other things, ready to put the trip behind them all. But she couldn't do that. Those things that they had moved on to used to be important to her too, but now there was a problem, because she had changed, but her world had not.
He returned from a retreat determined to live out his newfound faith. But no one seemed to be able to match his excitement to share the gospel. His spirit seemed to be met with "slow down" and people that seemed to care more about their work load than authentic service. Enthusiasm turned to frustration.
Or maybe the situation we all relate to: They slowly learned and grew in their faith journey, it didn't seem like a huge life change, but over time they began to feel out of place around their family and friends.

I told a friend a few weeks ago, "to be a Christian means you'll never fit in". Jesus tells us this many times, but one I always remember is "In this world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world." Jn 16:33
The truth is, that if you feel like you don't fit in anywhere here, its because this isn't your home.
"if the world has hated you realize it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you" Jn 15:18-19
We were made for heaven. If this world never feels quite right, be glad! I am always grateful when God allows me moments of solitude, when no one else in the entire world seems to understand, that I know I belong with Him. It can reorder my priorities in a heartbeat.

Now, here's where this gets more difficult: Even though you don't fit in, you have to try. I don't mean change yourself to be like other people, I mean you still have to be in relationship with people. For a lot of reasons, but most of all these 2: Because they need you and because you need them.

We were created to be in community. God made Adam AND Eve, not just Adam. He literally created us for each other, to be a gift for the other person. We know that people bring us joy and that no one really wants to be alone. We also know that it is through people that we experience the love of God.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us. 1 Jn 4

They need you too. "We are about bringing people along, not cutting them off" a friend reminded me. It's easy when we get frustrated that people don't seem to be where we want them to be, to want to distance ourselves from them. But remember that God loves them too, and wants them close, and if we can help we should.  I was walking in the trees around our farm with my 5 year old earlier this week and he wanted to be the "leader". We were exploring, and I was instructed to follow him. But he kept trying to lead me underneath very low branches that were pretty easy for him to get through, but almost impossible for me being so much taller. He was upset I wasn't following him since he was, after all, the leader!  I simply taught him, "you can't lead people where they can't go, they won't follow."
A good leader knows the people he is leading and finds a way to get them to the destination in a way that they are able. There are a lot of ways to get to the spot he wanted to go in the grove that don't involve going underneath a branch 2 feet off the ground.
You probably won't convince someone to sell all their belongings and move to Africa in a conversation. But you might be able to share a story about your experience that may begin to open their eyes and slowly change their heart. Bring them along, even if it has to be the long way.
When we get to a certain place, we want everyone to be right there with us, but we forget how long it took, how many specific experiences and encounters that have worked to get us to this place. We have to give them time and THEN we have to trust God that He is already working.

When we were on vacation in Florida, I was so blessed to get to spend the mornings on the beach watching the sunrise as I prayed my morning prayers. It was so quiet and peaceful as only a few others took advantage of that time before the beach became busy. It was also the time of day that a tractor came along raking the sand so it would be nice and smooth for the new day. It was nice to have a newly raked beach, but as I watched him go up and down the beach, I saw a very elaborate sandcastle that someone had built in the middle of the beach the day before. Someone had probably spent hours building it. I wondered if he would go around it, but he stayed right on course and in a matter of seconds he had completely erased any trace of it.

 I have this plan for life to be clean and smooth and pretty like a freshly raked beach, and I often come along and rake it myself. But I would do better to remember, that God is already at work, and I might just smash it in my haste to make things just the way I would like them to be. That's also when I usually discover that it's probably me, not someone else that needs to change. Its not as clean or easy, but it can be very beautiful when I find the way to work together WITH the Spirit to change hearts, especially my own.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

When He Doesn't Love Me the Way I Want Him To

Have you ever felt this way? He brings flowers but I just want him to spend more time with the kids. I'm sure the girl next door wishes he would think to bring flowers but he rushes to be home earlier.
I bet you've heard about The 5 Love Languages. If you haven't heard of it, the basic concept is that everyone gives and receives love in one of 5 ways. The book is popular because it helps couples recognize that the way they express their love might not be the way their spouse does, and this can lead to a lot of conflict. For example, if you tend to be the type of person who expresses love most by words you might be confused when your spouse doesn't feel you care about her when you have told her 10 times that day you love her. She instead expresses love through acts of service therefore because you have walked right past the sink full of dirty dishes, stepped over a basket of unfolded laundry and forgot to take out the garbage, she's not feeling the love. She loves you too and shows it in her effort to make sure the coffee was made, lunch was ready when you walked out the door, folded your shirts the way you like them, and cleaned out your car. It's obvious to her that she loves you because she did all those things, but you haven't heard the words in two days and therefore aren't feeling the love either.
It's really helpful in a relationship to know these things about each other so that we can really try to love our spouses in a way that they can really feel loved, making a point to say "I love you" or taking out the trash. The concepts of stepping outside of your own comfort zone and sacrificing to love your spouse are beautiful marks of Theology of the Body and God's true intention for love and marriage.


this doesn't mean that this is the only way my spouse is allowed to love me. It doesn't mean I can say "because this is the way I want you to love me, it's the only way I'll accept love from you." Its a tool to help me love the other better, and maybe recognize where my frustrations come from, but it's not the only way I can be loved.
It's pretty common that couples are complete opposites when it comes to the way they love best. And that's interesting because we typically fall in love with a person before we really know what their "love language" is. They clearly are able to get across to us that they love us early on in the relationship without knowing how we want to be loved and instead loving us the way they do best. It kind of makes me wonder if we might know how we WANT to be loved, but maybe this person actually knows how we NEED to be loved. Maybe that's why we fell in love with them in the first place.
This weekend I was driving home in tears and I realized there's someone else who doesn't always love me the way I want to be loved. The one I love the most, the one who knows me the best, in my mind doesn't always get it right. I was telling Him that point blank as I drove away from a heartbreaking situation that I was sure He should fix. If He loved me after all, He would do this for me.  There I go again, thinking I might know more than the one who created the world.
I always want "out" when it's painful. I want a quick fix, a happy ending. So I want God to love me by giving me what I want. But He always gives me what I need instead. And lots of time it seems more like punishment than blessing.
But once the tears slow, I can usually remind myself just how good and trustworthy and faithful God is. I can usually remember that if I can only endure this trail that He has asked of me, then He will use it too for His good purpose. He will use it to change my heart, to mold me, because clearly there is so much work yet to be done to make my heart like His.
I don't like it. I really wish He would just love me the way I want Him to.  I also really wish my husband would remember to take out the garbage, but the flowers on my counter have made me smile every time I look at them. They were the brightness I needed this dreary week. I know I fell in love with both of them because they love me the way I need to be loved. Now I just have to learn how to just let them love me and see the beauty that is already there.