Love

Are you an Achiever-Believer?

I went to great lengths to find this picture of my old table!

 

I felt the grooves of the soft wood on the palms of my hand, as I decided whether or not to purchase the table. “It’s hard to find handmade tables like this anymore,” The owner said. “After the industrial revolution, many craftsman went out of business. Each table used to be unique with it’s own carved details and imperfections, like this one. But society became more concerned about quantity and uniformity. Since machines were more efficient, here we are.” The owner explained the craftsman of the table was a famous artist from Italy. I wasn’t sure he was telling the truth (it was a craigslist purchase after all), but the story touched my heart and the table was beautiful.

For years, I held on to this impractical table. It was a sticky, soft wood – impossible to clean for a mom with three kids. It was like putting your dinner plate on a layer of maple syrup every night. And it was heavy (you need a team to move it heavy).  But I loved that table. I loved the grooves and waves of the wood that peeked through the dark stain, and the industrial bolts underneath. Mostly, I loved the story behind it and the idea of supporting a craftsman who loved his work.

I have a book on personality types and I am the “The Achiever.” I see a little achiever in my son too, always looking for the next task, the next responsibility, the next goal to reach. In school, the achiever in me piled up straight A’s, extracurricular activities, awards and benchmarks to success. I viewed love as something to be earned.

In college, I became a Christian and everything changed. I encountered God, I encountered His love. I learned His love is unconditional – not based on my performance, my efforts or achievements. I encountered a God who wanted to be with me, not for what I could do for Him.

A simple truth still refreshes my soul: God is after my heart not my output.

I didn’t have my eye on the handmade table because of it’s industrious capacity, I had my eye on it because it’s a piece of art. Intention and passion shine through the design of the table. It’s unique, made by a creator who cares about the details.

Ephesians 2:10 says,For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

For my fellow achiever-believers, we need these truths breathed into our lives. If not, we become consumed doing work for God while missing out on spending time with God. We are loved for our form, not our function. Our Father, the great craftsman, delights in being with us. He doesn’t form us into His image in assembly line fashion. He takes pleasure in the process and invites us to enjoy the process too. Yes, we are created to do good work, but first we must remember we are His work.

My son has been making school lunches lately. He made lunches for two weeks straight even though I never asked him to. Monday he woke up late, I made lunches and didn’t think anything of it. On the way home from school he said, “I’m so sorry I didn’t make lunches this morning, Mom. I was really tired.”

I looked at my achiever son and brushed his hair out of his face. I told him not to apologize, that I never expected him to pack lunches for me.

Then I spoke words to him every achiever needs to hear:

“I love you for who you are, not what you do.”

Not This One

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Every night at the dinner table we share our “highs and lows” for the day. My low was a hefty check I wrote to Homeland Security for our adoption. My “high” went right along with the check because it means we are inching closer to meeting our little one.

This led to a conversation about what each of us will do to welcome our newest member when they arrive. Brandon and I are trying to prepare the kids for possible scenarios – particularly related to attachment issues we may face. We try to explain trauma to our children as thoughtfully as possible, but it’s hard for them to understand completely. They’ve had pretty amazing lives so far (and awesome parents, if I do say so myself). Our youngest, has the softest heart. The mere thought of a a child who was abandoned, neglected, or abused, was enough to make her curl up in my arms and bury her face into my chest. She took a deep, empathetic breath. I know just how she feels.

Sometimes the thought can be overwhelming. Particularly, because we can’t help every child.

I lifted my daughter’s head up to look into my eyes and said, “I tell myself something when I start to feel sad about hurting children. Do you know what I tell myself?”

“What, Mommy?” Her glossy eyes looked right into mine.

“I look at one of you kids–I really look at you. I look at your soft skin and your silky hair. I look at your growing bodies and bright smiles, and I say ‘Not this one.'”

“What do you mean?” She asked.

I cupped her cheeks in my hands, “Not this child. This child is fed. This child is growing. This child is strong. This child is loved. Not this one.”

The sadness still comes, my heart still breaks for hurting children, but there is something empowering about driving a stake into the ground of the territory I’ve been given and saying, “Not this one.” The ones I’ve been entrusted with will be well loved. I can’t help all children–I want to, but I can’t. What I can do, is pour all my love into this moment, this child right in front of me. In that moment, my helplessness diminishes and I understand that I possess the most powerful currency: love.

When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Prize, she was asked, “What can we do to promote world peace?” She answered, “Go home and love your family.”

I think, maybe now, I’m starting to understand what she meant.

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:14

 

Temper Tantrums & Piggy-Back Rides

Yesterday I dropped my youngest off at her first day of (2nd year) preschool. The day before that, her older siblings had their first day of 2nd and 4th grade. They all did fine. Mommy is the one throwing the temper tantrum this week.

I’ve never felt more resistant to the ticking clock as I do now. I’m admittedly dragging my feet. A new school year. New shoe sizes. Pants are too short. Lunchboxes characters are “too baby-ish.” Another line on the growth chart, another reminder to breathe in sweet moments.

I went through the drive-thru at the coffee shop after I dropped the little one off. I was a hot mess of tears and snot, convinced I could remedy my mommy tears with a salted caramel mocha. I pulled up to pay for my liquid therapy and the barista said, “the car in front of you paid for yours.” I’m sure they saw me through the rear view mirror and assumed I had something tragic happen.

Nope, just the first day of school.

I’m not ashamed to admit how much of a baby I am. My tears have died down a little but they are still there. If that makes me crazy or irrational, that’s okay. I know there are many moms out who understand. There are moments when the brevity of childhood hit us. We’ll be fine, but those moments are real and tangible.

Before my tantrum shifted too high on the richter scale, I got this text from a friend (who didn’t know about my tantrum):

“The baby girl I was telling you about…she passed away yesterday morning. They didn’t give details, just complications from surgery.”

Gut punch.

A gasping breath was inhaled, a jumbled, but heartfelt prayer for the family was exhaled.

Yes, my children are growing. Much faster than I’d prefer. But they are growing. They are alive and they are growing. I won’t offer any cliche words to fellow heartbroken mommas, but as for me…today, this is what I’m grateful for. This is what I will cling on to when time feels unfair and my daughter’s hand feels that it has doubled in size this year. It’s growing. And even though it feels like the worst thing, it’s really the best thing.

My oldest starting calling me “mom” instead of “mommy.” Casually, as if it wouldn’t crush my whole world. Cuddling with her is like holding a deer, with her long, almost-ten-year-old limbs. I don’t give her piggy back rides anymore. I’m not sure when that stopped, but she’s a big girl now….It hits me – One day, all my children will be too big for piggy-back-rides.

Gulp.

When that day comes, I’ll have another temper-tantrum moment, I’m sure of it. I’ll have to remind myself that growing is a good thing, that their breath and lungs and beating heart–it’s all a good thing. I’ll still have tears, but I’ll remember my friend’s text and choose to be grateful for the gift of growing.

And in that moment my Father God, will wipe my tears and carry me on His back instead…

“I’ve been carrying you on my back
    from the day you were born,
And I’ll keep on carrying you when you’re old.
    I’ll be there, bearing you when you’re old and gray.
I’ve done it and will keep on doing it,
    carrying you on my back, saving you.” Isaiah 46:4 (MSG)