Sunday, February 17, 2013

Valentine's Day Reflections

I've always been a sucker for Valentine's Day.  I love the cards, the colors, the affections, the flowers, and the 50% off candy on February 15th.  

I woke up Valentine's Day morning, finished writing my romantic, heart-felt, gushy card for my husband, and proceeded to get ready for the day.  Valentine's Day often carries with it the anticipation of affection, love, warmth, and surprises.

So naturally, my heart was crushed, when by mid-morning, my two-year-old had vomited twice and peed through 3 pairs of underwear.   My heart was not kindled with affection.  My emotions did not radiate love and warmth.  This was NOT the surprise I had in mind.

And yet perhaps, as I sat on the floor, wiping up vomit, and crying because the day was hardly off to an affectionate start, I was celebrating more than I knew.  

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to 
lay down our lives for the brothers. 
1 John 3:16

Far beyond cards, flowers, sweet words, and romantic gestures, real love was defined on the cross -- one perfect lover sacrificing His life for men and women who didn't deserve Him. 

And in God's eyes -- the best way to spend Valentine's Day, to demonstrate love for another, is by sacrificial service to one that may never repay you. 

Sweet mothers -- did you spend Valentine's Day cleaning up messes of your children?  Giving baths? Cooking a dinner that received no accolades or genuine thank you's?  Helping with math homework? Drying teary eyes, and wiping runny noses, and kissing boo-boos, and sitting down exhausted at the end of the day?  Recognize it or not -- you are celebrating.

Celebrate Valentine's Day by remaining steadfast.  Persevering in your calling. Sacrificing for your children.  Doing the same, menial, overlooked tasks of loving and nurturing little ones who may or may not notice.  This is true love.  These acts are celebration-worthy.  

And by all means, go buy the 50% off chocolate. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Our Messy (Beautiful?) Home

We visited some friends recently for dinner.  My feelings of insecurity mounted as we approached the door, I knew what awaited us inside. 

I was right.  We were greeted by the scent of baking cookies and a softly burning candle; beautiful pictures hung on the wall, the carpets bore the marks of a fresh vacuuming, and flowers adorned the table.  

It was a lovely evening.  Really. 

Then we returned to our own home, where the aroma of dirty diapers filled the air, along with a trashcan in desperate need of emptying. I surveyed the room.  Half-chewed Cheerios plastered the chairs, single socks were carelessly stuffed in the couch cushions, and the humidifier had been transformed into Joanna's personal canvas for her "crayon art."  Legos were scattered like land mines, and someone's snowy boots had left a dirty footprint path through the kitchen.  

Most days, I feel like I can't compete with the chaos.  It regularly wins.  It also regularly swallows our library books.  And I certainly can't compete with our friends whose kids are grown and out of the house.

And within that statement lies the root of my problem -- because when did this become a competition?   I can often long for my home to appear as if kids don't live there -- immaculate, orderly, organized.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm totally an advocate of orderliness in the home, improved organization, and general overall cleanliness.  I attempt to wash the dishes daily, vacuum the carpets weekly, and dust every other year.

The problem comes when I end up spending more of my time trying to hide the fact that I DO have children, than I spend WITH my children; crossing things off my "home to-do" list, forgetting that my children ARE my to-do list.   In my heart's feeble attempts to compete and feel secure, I try to cover up the mess, forgetting that sacrifice is always messy.

If your bathrooms, like mine, don't get cleaned until someone is scheduled to come visit, it's ok.  Allow them to be a beautiful, dirty, reminder that love is chaotic, and sacrifice is messy.   

And if you're tempted to refrain from having spontaneous guests because your home "isn't up to standard,"  throw the doors of your home and your heart wide open, allow people to see the "I'm-not-always-so-put-together" you, and remind yourself that messy IS the standard. 

Does your home bear the marks of your service to your children?

The gospel speaks loud and clear -- Jesus, our beautiful Savior, exchanged his Kingdom robes for our filthy rags, and entered our messy world, and bears in His hands the marks of His service to us.