Month: February 2015

My Feline Alarm Clock

Cat at Door from Bing Images It’s five in the morning, and something is scratching at the wood under my bed. Forcing my eyes open and my body to motion, I place my feet in my slippers and take one step forward, only to trip. Over my cat. Who’s darting out from under my bed with a look of smug satisfaction on her face. Phase one of her morning mission, accomplished. As she heads confidently to her food cabinet, she doesn’t know I’ve closed the door and crawled back in bed.

At 5:02, phase two of her mission is under way. She’s scratching at the door while I’m thinking how much I love my dog. Come 5:05, the scratching persists. I open the door and put on my best grouchy face, which isn’t so hard about now. Maybe she’ll get the hint. Instead, she tilts her head as her pupils triple in size. “Meow?” It sounds like she’s saying “now.” I shut the door gently as possible and crawl back in bed.

At 5:30, she’s on phase 12 of her morning mission: running down the hall and pouncing off the door. I’m wondering why we invested in an alarm clock when we have such a persistent cat. And thinking—if only I were this persistent, I might get more accomplished.

Annoyed as I am by my cat, I want to be like her. She’s persistent, even when she doesn’t get the results she wants when she wants them. When it comes to writing, it can be hard to persevere when we pour all our efforts into an article, blog, or book but don’t see immediate results. As for my cat, she knows eventually I’ll wake up and feed her. When it comes to writing, I need to know eventually I’ll see results—even if it’s the life of one person changed by something I’ve written.

It’s the same with love. There are times when it’s hard to love. There are times when we give love, but don’t receive it in return. There are times when we love someone through a difficult stage in life, yet don’t see the change we long to see. But true love requires persistence. If we stop loving when things get tough, it was never true love to begin with. True love persists in spite of obstacles. It “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.” True love never fails.

True Love…is PERSISTENT (Day 16, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)

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It Ain’t Always Easy

Hard Work Street Signs from Google Images It’s easy to love your kids when they’re being sweet. When my daughter tells me she loves me “more than all the stars” and my son tells me I make him “shoooo happy” and they both shower my face with kisses, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to love them back. But there are days. Days when big sister doesn’t want to share and little brother won’t stop screaming at that impossibly ear-piercing pitch. Days when little princess decides she doesn’t have to listen unless it involves cookies, and little prince decrees the toilet his new waterpark.

It’s easy to love your new puppy when the little furball first comes home and showers you with love. But just wait until she showers your carpet with something else and chooses your best shoes as her new favorite toy. And that cute little stray kitty you found in your back yard? She’ll hypnotize you with those dilating pupils but one day she’ll hack up a fur ball at four a.m. or help herself to that dinner you spent hours cooking.

And what about Prince Charming? He holds the door for you, and you’re walking on air. He holds your hand, and your heart melts. He looks in your eyes, hanging on your every word, and you know he’s a keeper. Then kids come along and doors are forgotten, and who has a free hand to hold? And you pour out the depths of your heart only to watch him turn up the radio to catch the next play of the game.

Love is not easy. Anyone who’s had a pet, or a kid, or a relationship of any kind…KNOWS. The secret is out. If you care enough about someone, you’re in for some hard work. There are times when love is as easy as downing a chunk of chocolate cake, and times when its like scaling a rocky cliff. There are times when you flow in love, and times when you choose to love.

But as much as love is hard, it’s also something else. WORTH IT. For each moment I endure of quarrelling kids, there are thousands more of smiles and hugs and kisses and fun. I’ve cleaned up after my furry friends more times than I care to count, knowing how much joy they bring to my kids and warmth they bring to my home. And my Prince Charming? He’s still my prince, and he’s still charming. He’s also my friend and teammate and encourager and so much more. Beyond the hard work that is love, there are priceless blessings and countless times of saying, “So glad I stuck with it, no matter how hard it’s been.” And it’s been hard. But it’s so worth it.

True Love…is HARD WORK (Day 15, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)

The Big Freeze

Blizzard from Google Images When I go to a department store in Midwest sub-zero temperatures, I expect to find hats, scarves, and warm mittens. Maybe even some thick long johns, if I’m lucky. Swimming isn’t usually on my family’s radar until the end of May. Where we live, January and February are best spent hibernating indoors. So when the arctic wind accompanies me through the automatic doors of the local store, I’m more than a little confused when I see swimsuits hanging on the racks where there should be something, anything to keep us all…warm.

Never mind that half the swimsuits on display lack sufficient material for summer coverage. If I even tried to jump in a pool in February, I’d transform on impact into an ice sculpture. What I’d really like to do is write the store managers behind the winter swimsuit displays and ask them if they actually live here in the Midwest. Because if they did, they’d know we don’t need swimsuits just about now. We need down coats and thermals.

This world can be a cold place. Even if you live in California. Or Hawaii. The bitter winds of life are strong enough to freeze a heart. And only love has the power to usher in life-giving warmth.

True love is relevant. It sees a need, and meets it—whether it be a kind word, a listening ear, a meaningful gift, or practical provision. It’s not like the Midwestern store owners who lack the relevance to meet their frozen customers’ actual needs. Love observes and understands, listens, hears, and sees—enough to know the deepest needs in a person’s life.

So when someone comes looking for encouragement or comfort, I hope they don’t find the equivalent of department store swimsuits in the sub-zero Midwest winter. My prayer is that my words and actions will bring warmth enough to usher a mid-winter thaw into a frozen heart—that what I say and do will wrap them in the life-transforming power of love.

True Love…is RELEVANT (Day 14, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)

My Two-year Old Professional Distractor

TimeClock from Bing Images I was finally free. After my many attempts at updating my blog throughout the day had been thwarted by my two-year old professional distractor, it was time, at last. I could breathe deep, soak in the silence, sit at the computer, and write without interruption.

One keystroke into my blog post, I heard the door creak open in forewarning that the third escape attempt was now underway. Soon enough, the little escapee was tugging at my pant leg, staring me into compliance with his heart-melting teddy bear eyes. “Mommy, I need you!” How could I resist?

Since he was a baby, I’ve cuddled him to sleep every night. Usually, I wait for him to be completely knocked out before I tiptoe away. And sometimes, I abide at least three Mommy I Need You rounds before he’s officially “out.”

That night, I wasn’t so patient. I plopped him in the high chair, turned on some sure-to-put-him-to-sleep music, handed him a sippy cup, and returned to the blogosphere. Convinced he was finally asleep after several minutes of quiet, I turned to find him peering around the back of his highchair, just staring at me with those eyes as if to say, “What on that screen could possibly be more interesting and important than me?”

There are days I get so involved in the tasks before me that I forget the most important thing is to be involved in the lives of those I love. My computer screen may be calling me. A million important tasks might be screaming my name. But love is calling me to be involved in what’s most important. At the end of my life, do I want it to be said that I was very involved in the task at hand? No. I want to be known for being committed to the work of love.

It won’t be long enough that my kids are saying, “Mommy, I need you.” And even beyond those years of them saying they need me, I want to show them I love them by being involved in their lives—meeting their deepest needs for quality time, even if it means sacrificing my own plans.

“My whole life I complained that my work was being interrupted until I realized that the interruptions were my work.” (Henri Nouwen)

True Love…is INVOLVED (Day 13, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)

Love Makes Sense

Equation from Bing Images This is a test. This is only a test. For the duration of one sentence I will attempt to write something legible while placing my fingers on random keys. Pty8w 8s 9ho6 q 53w5l, j fdldzg gbjx jx kn,h z fdxg. I repeat, this is only a test.

Now, if you can, please interpret the fourth sentence of the previous paragraph. Can’t do it? Of course not. My fingers weren’t on the home keys. I placed them wherever I wanted, and just typed.

When it comes to typing on a keyboard, you have to follow some guidelines if you want the outcome to make sense. It’s the same in love. Love was never meant to be confusing. In reality, it’s as simple as, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

As a teacher, I spend a lot of time developing my young students’ reading skills. The goal is for the children to learn certain words, but with the limited options given for a particular skill set, some stories in their little readers don’t make sense. One time, after reading one of those nonsensical stories, a five-year old student asked, “What was that supposed to mean?”

We can try to make our own guidelines for love, just as I placed my hands on the keyboard wherever I wanted. But the outcome will make about as much sense as the random words strewn together in a children’s reader or the completely illegible sentence in the first paragraph here. Only when my hands are placed on the home keys do the words come out in a logical way.

Jesus is our “home base” when it comes to love. He is the one who created the golden rule of do unto others, and he is the one who lived out the golden rule by living a life of perfect love and dying a death of sacrificial love. When I feel confused about life and love, I just have to look at the ultimate definition of love. And that makes sense.

True Love…MAKES SENSE (Day 12, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)

A Deeper Hunger

Harvest from Bing Images Katniss Everdeen and Anastasia Steele: two different stories, two contrasting journeys. Both are hungry. For one, this hunger leads to heroism, for the other, to the arms of a sadistic villain.

Though both stories portray a culture of brutal violence, there are glaring differences between the themes of the Hunger Games and 50 Shades. Katniss—the heroine of the Hunger Games, recognizes this culture of brutality as wrong, not succumbing to its pervasive evil. Instead, she hungers for something better. Her undying loyalty to her sister grows into a sacrificial love for her people. She will not bow to President Snow. And she will give her life to defend her people from his malicious plans.

In stark contrast to the Hunger Games, 50 Shades celebrates the culture of brutality, painting a deceptive picture that a person can fall into the arms of unabashed violence and emerged unscathed. The story attempts to normalize what is a nightmarish reality for millions of human trafficking victims across the globe.

Katniss’ hunger is driven by a love for her people. This love leads her to become a symbol of courage, saving her generation from pervasive evil whatever the cost. Anastasia’s insecurity leads her to find fulfillment in torturous, manipulative lust, and in so doing she leads a generation into the same deception that has entrapped untold numbers in abusive relationships, modern slavery, and the grave itself.

Mother Teresa once said, “The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.” How we go about satiating our deepest hunger will, in the end, determine whether we are filled or left empty. A hunger driven by selfishness will lead to pain; a hunger driven by selflessness will lead to life.

True love hungers for goodness. It hungers to protect itself and those it loves from the entrapments of deception and abuse, and to free others from lies, manipulation, and violence. The greatest hero of all time had such a hunger. He died on a cross so we could be free from the penalty and power of depravity. He died that we can live in a love that brings life, not suffering and death. God, change our appetites! Let us hunger for what is good. And let this hunger move us to act courageously to protect our generation, and future generations, from that which would seek to destroy.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)

True Love…HUNGERS (Day 11, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)

The Fad that Never Fades

Clothing Closet from Google Images I’ve lived long enough to see the best and worst of fads come, go, and sometimes come back again. In the seventies, it was bellbottoms, polyester, and garishly bright patterns. For the eighties—big hair, even bigger glasses, bomber jackets, and terrycloth. My high school friend called me in the early nineties, crying because she heard bellbottoms were on their way back in. And who would guess that skinny jeans would strike again in the new millennium?

Fads are as changing as the seasons. But there’s one thing that is more timeless than eternity. Love.

The call to love one another has been going forth throughout all of history. Those who choose love as their favored garment have chosen the one unfading fad. And the God who loves us with an everlasting love has always been and will forever remain.

Love is the one thing that will never go out of style. It has been from before the beginning of the world, and will be beyond the end. Times change, minds change, people change, and fashions change. But love never fades.

“For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.” (1 John 3:11)

True Love…is TIMELESS (Day 10, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)