I Struggle With Love…

I do not love everyone.  I know I am supposed to love everybody, but I do not.  I am horrible at loving people.  The word “love” is so perverted in our culture.

If I could be a recluse, I would be.  It is really, really easy for me to choose that.

I used to not be like this, but the older I get, the more I see.  The more I see, the more jagged I become.

I know, I know, my blog says, “paint beauty with ashes”.  But that process to find beauty means also seeing the ugliness of life and being  honest about that ugliness in myself.  When I first became a Christian, this “love” that they spoke of was very foreign to me.  I knew love based on conditions.  I knew love based on performance.  I knew love that was used to gain things.  Selfless love? No.  Love that is not easily angered? No.

My spiritual barometer is 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 when it comes to love.  And I have not figured this one out.  Every day I say this verse to myself and every day I know I fall short.

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude.  It is not self seeking, it is not easily angered.  It keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

It is hard for me to love because I am prideful.

I am just going to be honest.  Humility does not come easy for me.  I have fought my way back from some really big battles and there is a part of me that still fights every day.  And when you are in a fight, you fight to win.  Many times that transfers to me needing to be right about everything.

I recently have found myself convicted of this and I have come up with a solution.  I am learning that not everything needs a battle cry.  Not everything needs my opinion.  Not everything needs a win in my corner.  Sometimes, you lose to win.  For example, my husband can tune me out if I try to win at every conversation (and I have tried to do that a few times)  But, I am learning to say, “Okay.” And not go to battle.  “Okay.”  I do not have to win. “Okay.” I will not major in the minors.  “Okay.” I will save my energy for significance.  “Okay.” I do not have to be right all of the time.  And that has taught me humility which is the opposite of pride.  Humility is really, really, really, hard for me.  But, it is bringing me peace that I have never had before.

Selfless relationships take risk and time.

I struggle with having a servant’s heart.  Self-preservation is very important to me.  Self-preservation can keep me from having relationships.  And most days, I am really okay with that.  That is why my circle is close and small.

Nobody likes to be hurt.  I keep away from this by keeping relationships superficial and filled with laughter.  But, real relationships are filled with selfish people, myself included.  And in dealing with people successfully, there has to be a yielding of rights.  I put you first. I forgive you.   I put you first.  And if I am honest, saying, “I put you first.” and showing it consistently is such a struggle.

There have only been a handful of people in my life that have shown me this kind of love. It is easy to show love to these people when they give you this, it is another story to give this kind of love to others that have hurt you over and over and have a twisted way in which they “love”.  That is why forgiveness is such a big thing.

Forgiveness is HARD because EVIL people do exist.

The process of forgiveness is difficult and messy.  I am still trying to figure it out and have not been successful with it.  I love how people say; “Just forgive.”   I can forgive people when they ask and then we seek to change what caused the issue. (because it is never one sided)  Usually, both people need to work to resolve the issue.   But, what about when they do not?  What about people that never feel that they do anything wrong?  What about people that can only see things from their point of view?  Loving them is REALLY, REALLY hard.

I am learning that I can forgive people, but I do not need to have a relationship with them.  I can forgive the past.  There are some people that do better with me not being in their life and I do better with them not being in mine.  Reconciliation is not necessary for forgiveness.  I am trying to work my head around this as I struggle with forgiveness.

I look around at everyone posting hearts and love memes and I feel sick to my stomach.  I can’t tell others to love, I can only work on myself.  I can’t demand others to do something that I am not sure I am doing well.  I really have to look at myself and grow myself first.  How am I growing?  How am I loving?

Love is hard.  Loving well is hard.  Loving your enemies…even harder.  I can’t do it by myself.  If I want to love the way God asks me, I need a super natural source to help me do it.  I need His love to work through me in a powerful way.  I can’t look around and point my finger and accuse others of not loving when I can’t even get it right myself.

I am just going to pray and continue to grow in God’s love.  Because TRUE love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 

Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say

I look around in the news and on my Facebook feed of kids destroying Lego displays, kids breaking museum exhibits, and talking back to parents as the public laughs and laughs.  Then, yesterday, because I try to stay away from the 24 hour news, I see that an ex-Stanford swimmer rapes an unconscious girl.

I am not sure whether to cry in despair, get sick to my stomach, or to just cut my family off from society.  I know we live in a sinful world, but, I am often overwhelmed at the thought of growing girls in a world that wrong is now right and right is now wrong.  It is not a job for the cowardly.  It is a constant job that is the most important job of all.  But, that is the problem.  America…we, as parents are not doing our job.

I have worn the hat of teacher, principal, and parent in the educational systems of America.  I have taught in public school and private school.  We continue to hold teachers at such a high accountable standard with unrealistic expectations to solve all the world’s problems, but the problem is parents.  How can we solve problems that parents are responsible for?  Parents….do your job!

Hold Your Kids Accountable

From the beginning, you teach your kids about the world.  You teach them how to love, you teach them respect, and you teach them the rules of the world.  (I speak this as a mom of 2 girls that do not have a disability, that is a completely different approach)  When your toddler throws himself on the floor, hold the line.  If you do not, you are teaching them that if you cry and throw yourself on the floor long enough, you get your way.  If you think a toddler temper tantrum is bad, it only gets worse.  And when you give in, you say, “You are in charge of the house.”

Our oldest daughter was VERY stubborn.  She would throw 2 hour throw yourself down on the floor temper tantrums at 2.5 when she did not get her way.  She even did it at her birthday party when she did not want ANYONE touching her swing set.  The birthday ended early, she went to her room and screamed.  I know psychologists might say, “Well, she was trying to tell you something.”  No, she was trying to get her way.  And I refuse to raise spoiled brats.  This daughter is still stubborn, we have focused her determination in many ways.  She is independent and determined when she sets a goal.  This was a process that happened over time as we held her accountable for her actions.

Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

My youngest daughter’s first sentence was “No means no.”  Even though she did not listen and we thought we were going to have to create a Military Pre-School for her, we kept saying it.   Even at 13, we still have to say it.  “No means no.  I do not care how much you whine, complain, or sulk, the answer will still be no.”  We do not have to teach kids how to manipulate.   We do not have to teach kids to lie.  We do not have to teach kids to be selfish.

We do have to teach them how to be kind, how to be honest, and how to be giving.  We do this by modeling it ourselves.  We also do this by following through what we say we are going to do.  I often see parents give empty threats.  “If you do this, we are going to leave.”  But, the parents never leave.  The kids keep doing it and they learn quickly that mom and dad do not mean what they say.

Think before you threaten, but make sure you follow through.  A conversation might go like this:

“I am giving you a warning right now to get yourself to stop __________ .  If you can not do that, we will __________________.  Do you understand?”

The next time it happened, I did exactly what I said I would do.  It did not take them long to understand that I say what I mean and I mean what I say.  Now, at age 13 or 14, I look them in the eye and say, “Try me.”  And they know.  They still try me and I still follow through.

Build a Relationship With Your Kids and That Means NOT Being Their Best Friend

My daughter was five when she looked at me and said, “You know my favorite part about getting in trouble?  When you take me in your arms and tell me what I did wrong, how much you love me, and what I can do to make it better.”

Discipline means teaching your kids.  I say this over and over to them, “I love you too much to allow you to act like this.  My job is to grow you to be the best you can be and that means that not allowing you to act like this.”  Over the course of time they know that loving them means growing them.  I give them the grace to grow, but when they do not improve themselves, I need to step in with boundaries.

I need to raise my kids to be able to step into this world, take their place in it, work hard and be independent.  They do not get there by me making excuses for them, keeping consequences from them, and keeping them happy.  Life is hard.  My job is to help them deal with life by growing their self control, responsibilities, and respect.  That process is draining as a parent.  This is a 24/7 job that will suck the life out of you.  Sometimes what you do will work and sometimes you will fail immensely.  This is how I show them the process.  I say to them, “You are not perfect.  I am not perfect.  Life is not perfect.  You are growing as a kid and I am growing as a parent.  We will not always get it right, but there is nothing you can do that will make me love you less and there is nothing you can do that will make me love you more.”  And by then, they know I say what I mean and mean what I say.