February 10, 2016

The Essence of Love

I love that our children always seem to be going out of their way to find little ways to show each other, and their dear old folks, how much we are loved.  Elisabeth leaves little notes here and there.  Brianna will tuck a scripture verse in just the right place.  Carmella loves to serve dessert to all of us at the end of a long day.  Kaitlin, who is not a morning person (and that's an understatement)  regularly sets her alarm for just before sunrise so she can deliver a fresh cup of coffee to every (8) coffee drinker in our house.  Emma will join the boys in playing a game on a Saturday afternoon even when she had a nap in mind.  The boys will work together in the chicken coop on a rainy day or read to their little sisters and help them brush their teeth so I can take a run.  And just in case that day to day isn't enough, our kids get really into Valentine's Day.  

Not long after the New Year they each start disappearing into quiet corners where they eagerly work on secret projects and little expressions of love.  I always look forward to seeing what each child came up with and the way their very individual personalities come out in their cards and gifts for each other.  

One year Kaitlin sewed mini Henry Owls for each of us themed to our own personalities.  Samuel's was reminiscence of Eyeore, Elisabeth had a long golden braid like Rapunzel and mine was full of pink and some bling.  This year I happen to know Aedan has made red paper hearts with pictures of his favorite Peanuts characters and witty little sayings expressing his love toward his siblings.  And I can pretty much bet Brianna will spend an entire day in the kitchen, using every pot, burning something and then creating the perfect Martha Stewart something with chocolate, which she will wrap in something incredibly time consuming to make.  

Regardless of what it turns out to be each and every expression will be met with great joy, appreciation and some return gesture of love.  We will spend the afternoon cooking dinner together and then sit for hours around the table laughing and having a generally joyous (and shockingly loud) time being with those who love us and those whom we love.

Likewise, around the country many children, parents, couples, teachers, grandparents, students, friends, and lovers are ordering flowers, buying chocolates, cutting out paper hearts and planning romantic evenings to show their love and affection for those who are near and dear.  

And that is just awesome.  Because why not?  What is less than wonderful about taking a day to make sure those around us know we LOVE them???  

But you know what matters more than these grand gestures? It's the love we live out daily.  It's the love that will often go unrecognized.  It's the love that seems, many times, undeserved.

And that thought takes us back to the very definition of love.  Love isn't the gushy feeling of new love.  It's not the big hug in response to someone else's expression of love.  True love, at its very core, is a choice we make with no regard for what we will get in return.  True love, is reaching out, even when we most likely will be smacked down.  True love, is most often inconvenient, frequently painful, and many time unrequited.

No one knows this more than our sweet Jesus.  Who loves without ceasing, even when he is rejected.  He who loved even when it meant the pain of the cross.  The one who loves even though it is often not received and frequently unrequited.  He is the epitome and our living example of love.

Today I was reading a post written by one of my running pals.  Susan said, 

" See the hole where the doorknob got too close to the wall.  Patching a hole in the wall of my son's room requires love!"      
 "I put the heart under the patch."  
 "He may never see it, but the love will be there!"  
 Oh, dear mothers.  This got me to thinking.  Because isn't this what mothering is really all about?  This is the very essence of what we, as guides for the next generation, should be.  As I told Susan, I adore this picture of motherly love.  Because this is a key to teaching our children to love.  And in doing so spreading the love of Christ to the world.  We slip our heart into all things even when they can't see it.  And somehow they do feel it.  Which maybe is more important???   I know first hand that if you do this, one day they will realize it.  And one day they will come back and acknowledge it.  And one day they will thank you.  And then, dear Mama, you will be blessed many times over, as you feel that love come back to you.  As you watch him in turn give endless and unconditional love to friends and family.  And then as it comes back to him.  His own love grows.  And he has more to give.  And he will turn to the poor and the needy.  And that love will come back yet again.  And his supply will grow yet greater.  And he will reach out in love to those considered unlovable, unworthy, and undeserving.

Now do you remember when your little one was first placed in your arms?  When you first looked at that sweet face?  How your heart broke because it was so filled with love?  And you said, "Wow!  I never thought there was a love this big!"  Well, I'm telling you.  That was nothing.  As you watch this love unfold in your dear child's life, your love for him will grow by leaps and bounds far greater than you ever thought possible.  

Photo credits Susan Huffstutler