What does real love look like?

I’ve been sick this week and completely useless.

It’s no fun being sick around the holidays, so much to do and no energy to do it. Thank God for Amazon.

And my husband…

Every time I’m sick he takes such good care of me. He makes sure I have all the medicine I need and am totally comfortable. He must’ve gone to the store 50 different times because of my ever-changing mood for food and drink. And, he even drove halfway across town to get me my favorite soup.

Also, he allows me to rest and he picks up the slack around the house and takes care of our kid’s needs. I am truly blessed because of him.

My husband’s response to me being completely laid up and useless during one of the busiest weeks out of the year has got me to thinking.

What does real love look like?

Is it really just 3 little words with an emoji attached to it?

Or is there action behind this word that is shaded in various hues of pinks and reds?

In our day and age “I love you’s” are said daily without a second thought and are slathered all over social media. While sometimes this can be the only thing that can be done or said in a moment, I can’t help but think it can feel a bit vacant. When it’s thrown around so impulsively it begins to feel void of any commitment and true substance.

Maybe loving isn’t always as easy as we like to think it is. Perhaps, at times it takes a little more work than we would like to think.

What if during this season of giving, we take a step back some 2,000 years ago and follow the man from Nazareth and consider what real love looks like.

For God so loved that He gave…

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

This is more than likely the most well-known verse in the entire bible and I believe it holds an equation as simple as 1 + 1=2.

God loved = He gave.

Real love gives.

God gave His Son to die for us which led to life for all mankind. He knew we had a need and out of love He gave.

This gift that He gave was given solely out of Agape. This is the word used to describe the love that is from God and specifically IS God.

Agape love is shown by what it does. It is not an emotionally based love, it is not based on anything the recipient has done. Agape is faithfulness and commitment.

Agape is God’s love for us because it is who He is.

Real Love has a name

Because God IS love, (1 John 4:8) He is the ultimate model of who we are to follow when we need to see how to do love.

God gave Love…He gave Jesus.

We love, we give. There just simply can not be one without the other.

Real Love Gives

We have forgotten in our day and age that there is a responsibility that comes with loving someone. It is a weighty duty.

And a great privilege.

Love doesn’t mean we are fulfilled or even necessarily happy at the moment.

A lot of the time love isn’t even about us or our needs.

Most of the time, it is others focused.

Truly loving another comes with sacrifice on our part. It may even mean going against what we feel in the moment to give another love.

…”My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:38-39

I think we like to believe love shouldn’t cost us anything.

But sometimes love doesn’t look the way we think it should, sometimes it’s downright uncomfortable.

Sacrificial, even.

Love gives

an apology.

truth.

time.

a hug.

a meal.

a sacrifice.

Friend, don’t be fooled by the shallow counterfeits out there. There are many. We can fall for the shiny and the easy, thinking it’s the road to real love because it gives us butterflies. All the while forgetting that true Love is stained with blood and wears a crown of thorns.

The ultimate gift we could ever receive was given just over 2,000 years ago. It was the utmost act of love and sacrifice at once.

It was certainly not what everyone expected… or even wanted.

But it was exactly what was needed.

This is real love.

Love came and entered our little ball of dirt and turned everything upside down for the people of that time, and if we allow Him to, He will continue to do so today.

Because real love never stops giving.

May we be reminded this Christmas, and all the year-long, that real love gives.


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How to be the Loudest Voice our Kids Hear

In a world full of ugly how will we teach our children to be decent human beings?

It’s the question at the heart of several conversations I’ve been a part of in recent months. With Hollywood’s current events and our tumultuous politics, this has been a recurring topic on social media and in personal conversation.

I’ve heard comments such as these:

“How will my boys be men that respect women when we have a president like this?”

“When those in power behave this way how are we to teach our kids it’s wrong?”

“How do I explain the ugly things that happen in this world to my kids?”

People in the spotlight are responsible for the most hideous behaviors and appear to be above the law. More shootings and ugliness spill out daily into our homes from simply turning on the television. At the swipe of a finger, the news bombards not only us but our children as well.

We worry how their hearts and minds will be affected by the people in places of prominence and the events in our world.

It can leave us feeling helpless.

So, how do we raise men and women that respect others while the world pushes in?

Going on a walk with my family, I happened to lag behind a bit messing with the dog. I looked up and pulled out my phone just in time to catch this picture. As I glanced down at my phone, the thought crossed my mind.

This is how..

My hubby and my oldest were walking, genuinely engaged in a conversation about serious issues. We want them to come to us first when they have a struggle and we are so honored when they let us in.

We are far from perfect parents but we make it our mission to have our boys consider us a safe place. My husband and I decided to have an open door policy in our home, to be honest with our boys.

 We choose to talk about life. Real. Not fun. Ugly. Exciting. Glorious. Confusing. Life. Un-filtered and uncensored. Sometimes the conversations aren’t fun, and they aren’t always pretty and sometimes we have to initiate because they’re embarrassed.

There are days my kids see and hear things I’d rather they not. I can’t control what comes out of the mouth of the president, the celebrity on tv, or for that matter, the person next to us. And I certainly don’t always agree with their views.

Talk to them

My oldest son is quite literally growing into a man before my eyes, and as I watched my husband walking with him I was filled with a sense of awe. An understanding of the great privilege a parent holds gripped me all over again.

I believe the greatest mistake we can make in parenting is to put the power to impact our children into the hands of others. Whether this is a politician, school,  church, society, or anyone else.

When we throw our hands up in defeat we are claiming helplessness over our own children; Instead of this, we should be claiming promises over them.

When we throw our hands up in defeat, we claim helplessness over our own children.. when we should be claiming promises over them.Click To Tweet

Ours are the words they hear daily. It’s our voices that have the ability to shape what they understand to be true of the world and themselves.

With a million voices vying for their attention, I want ours to be the loudest. We are the ones that love them. No matter how well-intentioned he may be, the president doesn’t love my children. Whether they be a republican or democrat, conservative or liberal, they don’t love our children.

They do not know my children individually and they do not know what is best for them.

Therefore, I will not give them that much credit.

I refuse to give away the power that I possess to influence my children because of what celebrities, politicians, or anyone else choose to do or say. In a world full of agendas and lies, I pray that our home will be filled with love and grace so that they won’t feel the need to look elsewhere for their worth.. or anyone else’s, for that matter.

Wherever I may fear the greatest threat comes from, supposing it’s the White House or the house down the street, I want my kids to know that their greatest ally on Earth is right here, walking next to them.

 

I pray they’ll remember the love they’ve been given and the truth they’ve been shown right here when questions arise and the ugliest part of humanity shows its face.

This is what I hope will lead and guide them as they grow into men.

Though imperfect as we are, we love them fiercely. My hope is, if I am honest with them for my need of grace, they will be honest with their need and that will extend far beyond our home.

Ultimately, my prayer is that because they have been given grace, they will be grace givers, always.

That they will see and know the ultimate Grace Giver.

We certainly can not keep them from all the ugly in this world. But it is my privilege to take their hand and walk with them through it.

 

 

You are Irreplaceable—A Mother’s Worth

I bet now there’s a Beyoncé song running through your head since reading the title?

No?

“To the left, to the left..”

Well, now there is— you’re welcome.

I’m so easily distracted. Let’s get back to where we were, shall we?

If you’re a stay-at-home mom like me, you, no doubt, have been asked the question, “Where do you work?” Here begins the awkward dance. And in the defense of the questioner, I’m pretty sure I’m the one startin’ the two-step.

“I’m a stay-at-home mom,” I reply.

You are Irreplaceable

Here it comes.. the old cliché that I dread hearing. “Well, that’s a job all in itself!” Or, “You don’t ever get time off do you?!” And my personal favorite, “You have the hardest job in the world!” (I cringe every time I hear this response.)

Then, I smile and give my best–oh, it’s no big deal, humble, stay-at-home mom nod. I agree with them and lament the “hardness” of my job, because, well, that’s what you do.

We continue on with our conversation, all the while, I can’t decide if they believe what they just said, or for that matter, if I do.

It’s a dance I hate and if I wasn’t so conscientious of the dance, here’s what I’d actually like to say.

“I don’t think you believe that being a stay-at-home mom is the hardest job in the world…”

Let’s just get this out of the way right now;

Yes, I’m extremely cynical.

Ok, good, moving on.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ve come to the conclusion in my experience that it’s mostly a trite response. You know, like when someone asks, “how are you today?” I don’t know about you, but I usually don’t respond with, “Awful, worst day ever, thanks for asking.”

I also have come to see that we as moms struggle with our own value in motherhood.

How often have you said, “I’m just,” before the reply “a stay-at-home mom?”

(Maybe you’re not like me, maybe you’re secure in your value as a full-time mom. If so, I admire that about you.. .teach me your ways.)

I’ve done it a thousand times. “I’m just a stay-at-home mom.”

Followed by: “I used to be…” *Just in case there were any questions— I promise, I have value. 

For some reason, I felt I was doing my part for society when I went to work. I could wear the shiny little badge that proudly proclaimed, I am a working part of society!

So, finding value in my job, as you can imagine, wasn’t a great thing when I came to the frightening realization that;

I am replaceable.

If you’re like I was, seeking value in something where I was easily replaced, it’s an exhausting thing. You’re always running a race you’ll never win.

I became fully aware of this when I was working full-time after my second son was born. Taking time off meant someone else would be doing my job. We then had some changes within our childcare situation and I had to decide to either stay home or take my boys to daycare.

Although I had a desire to be home, it still scared me. Where was my value if I didn’t have my career?

Essentially, I felt invisible without it.

If we are being completely honest anyone can do our “job,” (Well, maybe not if you’re the star NFL quarterback or the greatest physicist alive. I guess maybe you’re good there… you’ve got the market on that one.) But really, even then you’ll die one day, someone younger and better will take your place. That’s just all there is to it.

(I know, I’m just full of positivity.) But hey, congrats, my point has arrived!

As a mom I am irreplaceable.

I am essential.

I am the only one that can love and care for my children in the way that they need. So, when I think of where I am now, as a mom, I think of it as a privilege. I think of it as the ultimate gift and quite frankly, the greatest blessing.

It has taken me quite some time to not only be confident in saying this but to be comfortable with it as well. When I am struggling with the truth of my value I remember these 3 words,

I am irreplaceable. 

You are irreplaceable. 

You are the ONLY mother your kids have. While I’m sure this is no new revelation, I don’t think we stop enough to breathe that information in. To really STOP and THINK about the fact that these precious souls are our responsibility.

They are not only growing physically but emotionally as well. We are gifted with walking alongside them, guiding, directing, correcting and loving them every step of the way.

When I am in that place of not believing in my worth as a stay-at-home mom, I am listening to a society that doesn’t find value in a mother. What she contributes every single day to raise children, men, and women.

We are raising the men and women that one day will be our neighbors, our doctors, our policemen or teachers or clerks at the grocery store. Decent, loving, intentionally taught human beings.

That is the only job where I am irreplaceable.

Realizing this has brought me some peace in my fear of being replaced.

With that said, I wish I could tell you I never struggle with this any longer, but that’d be a lie (I’d rather not start our relationship off that way) So, I’m being honest, I do still struggle with my worth as a stay-at-home mom.

As with any other lie, there is a truth uncovered in the scriptures about Gods character that I believe helps kill the lie.


He sees you.

 Hagar was running away. She was pregnant with a child from another woman’s husband, a man who was her master.

She was basically a surrogate, but she was not loved. I’m sure she must’ve felt used. She was Egyptian and she wanted to go home. So she ran…

She ended up with a spring of water in the wilderness and guess who found her there? Genesis 16:7 says the angel of the Lord found her.

He said, “Hagar, where have you come from and where are you going?”

She answers Him and He proceeds to give her a quick synopsis of her future, including the name of her soon-to-be son. After this discussion with God, (I know, no biggie, right?) she gives Him a name based on what she experienced out of this interaction.

Genesis 16:13 says, Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her,

“you are the God who sees;”

He saw her. truly, He, the God of everything, took his time to see her, an Egyptian woman who was really not worth much in the eyes of the world.


He sees you too.

Indeed, He knows that what you are doing truly is the hardest job in the world, even if no other soul acknowledges that, He does.

You have a loving Father who is walking this life with you. Caring for you and shepherding you every step of the way as you shepherd your little ones. You and I can rest in the fact that even if this world says we are replaceable, He does not.

Let’s make a pact to believe this together when we’re fighting against the lies, ok?

We are irreplaceable.


What makes you feel replaceable? Are you a stay-at-home mom, working mom or somewhere in between? Do you struggle to find value in your title? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Carry on

She would’ve been 92 today. 92..

Had she not passed away nearly 8 years ago.

I remember her lying helpless in her hospital bed, appearing tiny and shrunken under the scratchy blanket. Having suffered a stroke a few days earlier, by the time we came to the hospital she was fading fast. We were told there was nothing more they could do.

And so we waited.

The days that followed had people telling me “At least she had a long life,” to which, I wanted to reply, “I’ll be sure to tell you that when you’re dying.” But I refrained, simply nodding dutifully to the awkwardness that accompanies death. I didn’t care how long her life was… I wasn’t ready for her to go.

Carry on…

 

Carry On…

It’s what she said the day she had the stroke. It was the last words out of her mouth as the bleeding in her brain took over her functioning mind.

She was stuck on repeat, “carry on, carry on..” Over and over, gazing carefully at each of us from across the room with intensely ice-blue eyes that were her signature.

There we stood, roughly seventeen of us, without my little brother who was traveling our way. Tears rolling down faces, not realizing these were her last words, but completely comprehending she was saying goodbye and trying her best to send a message with the little she could say.

Carry On…

I would come and go from the hospital that week, not sure what to do and completely uncertain about how to watch someone I loved so dearly die. I was familiar with death at a young age, but it was mostly sudden and violent. I was quickly realizing I wasn’t accustomed to the long goodbye and didn’t care for it either. She could no longer eat and the thought that she was starving to death tormented me.

The week she died I was fighting a cold that I denied was anything but allergies to continue to gain access to the ICU. My sister-in-law sat in a chair keeping vigil overnight, soaking my sweet grandmother’s lips with water from a sponge. She was selfless and unafraid of death like I was.

Dragging myself back to the hospital in the morning I found her still sitting. I immediately felt shame for having gone home overnight and for the weakness that accompanied my very being.

April looked up from what she was working on in the corner and smiled.

“How was she?” I asked. Staring at my grandmother, who appeared small, almost like a child in the bulky hospital bed.

“Same.” She answered. “They say that your hearing is the last thing to go before you die so I’ve been talking with her,” April said, thoughtfully.

“Do you think?” I trailed off, motioning to the empty space next to my grandmother’s wilting frame on the bed.

“Of course, get up there next to her, talk with her.” April patted the bed and then my arm. “I’m going to go downstairs for a bit and leave you two alone.” She disappeared out the door and I carefully climbed up next to my grandmother on the bed.

Don’t forget her hands… 

With everything I loved about her, I probably loved her hands the most. Lifting her fragile hand into my own, I studied them, they were weathered and knotted from arthritis that had ravaged them. I stroked her hand lovingly, tracing the raised veins with my fingers. Remembering her diamond wedding band that once circled her finger, big enough to fit over her knuckles, yet too big to stay stationary once on.

Her hand, dwarfed by my much larger one, rested in my open palm. With our fingers next to each other, my hand was much larger, this was true, but my fingers were long and delicate like I imagine hers once were. “Piano hands,” she had always called them, though I barely knew to play, and poorly at that.

Wynona, or “Ginger,” as she was called by most, was a small woman, maybe five foot two at her tallest. I towered over her at five foot eight. “Gro-mo,” had become my brothers’ silly nick-name they would tease her with as they’d engulf her tiny frame with a hug.

Though small in stature, she was mighty in love. I sat in awe, being pulled back in time and thrust into the future all at once. These hands had cared for me and in a matter of days, they’d be gone. They cleaned up after me as a baby and looked after me as a woman when broken by anxiety. Whether a baby or a woman.. they comforted me.

Sobbing, I stared lovingly at those hands, trying with all of my might to memorize them.

Carry on…

My mind drifted to the life she had seen, the work those hands had done. She was born in a time when little was had. Carried in a womb that didn’t necessarily want her. Her mother had cinched her in so tight by corset that she had a club foot when she was born and struggled with the pain of it all her life. Called a bastard when she was young and never knowing for sure who her real father was. Raised primarily by her grandparents in the oil fields of Oklahoma, she went out on her own at the tender age of 17. Traveling to California and as far away from the dust of Oklahoma as she could get. She worked hard, climbing San Francisco hills in 6-inch heels and raising a family at the same time. She was a career woman at a time when it wasn’t fashionable.

 

She had survived breast cancer 3 separate times and took the treatment so well that as a girl I thought cancer was tantamount to having a cold. Enduring an alcoholic, unfaithful husband for years and watching her only son spiral into drugs and eventually death, she was no stranger to heartache. She held her 2nd husband in her arms as he breathed his last breaths. She lovingly and faithfully held 2 children, 5 grandchildren, and 9 great-grandchildren. Strengthening her only daughter, my mother, as she laid her own son to rest far too early, she was ironclad. Love and devotion to her family and her Jesus were who she was. Those hands of hers cleaned up messes, wrestled rose bushes, patted away hurts, wrote out scripture and worked harder than any pair of hands that size should have. All the while belonging to a woman with a fierceness that belied her size.

Gently laying her hand on her chest, I thought simply,

And through it all, she carried on…

“Carry on,” she had said with a smile only my grandmother could give as she knew she was dying. It was wisdom. Wise advice from a woman who did just that. Through abandonment, pain, disease, grief, and heartache she carried on.

As long as I knew her, she never gave up and never sat it out. And with her last words to her beloved family, she said the thing that has shaped what I choose to do each day. When circumstances are not what I wish, when life is tough and when it is sweet…

I will choose to carry on. 

We’re carrying on grandmother and I think you’d be proud.

“I know the plae