Saturday, June 12, 2010

Labeling vs. Loving

The last couple weeks, something's happened. Something good.

Amidst all the stresses of the last few months... sickness... bizarre infections stemming from those sicknesses... an unexpected move... a few trips to the ER (one just two days ago with my littlest guy!)... general exhaustion from being pregnant... unpacking our house... getting geared up for another baby... dealing with heat without a/c... and whatever else life normally puts on our plates, I realized recently that I was just surviving through each day. Not to say I didn't enjoy my kids... and not to say I was a complete grump... but my tone got really firm and jaded (this was helpful for that), my plans took precedence over being responsive or spontaneous, and somewhere along the way, I became highly susceptible to annoyance and provocation.

But the last few weeks, after taking a break from our school work (they were ahead anyway), and having a nice family vacation (it was so needed and so enjoyable), and intentionally trying to just love them, I noticed something-- I AM falling back in love with my kids. And they're wonderful little people. Hilarious. Quirky. Curious. Fun to be around. Interesting. Interested. Precious. All these months, I was just surviving, and just barely getting by, when I could have been enjoying them, laughing with them, and spending time serving and loving them.Last night, as I was reflecting on this change in perspective, I realized it was as if, in my mind, I had stamped each child with a label of their worst behavior. Just like that game show from a few years back- "you ARE the weakest link"... I had stamped each child in my mind: "you ARE whiny and dramatic." "You ARE mischievous and trouble-prone." "You ARE prone to emotional, irrational displays of temper." Now-- I need to clarify-- that's not an accurate picture ofmy kids. It's perhaps an accurate description, sometimes, of some of their worst moments. But in my view, they had become entwined with those things, and I sat ready to pounce on those behaviors, the moment I saw them crop up. Anytime I saw those things, it fed my perception and fueled my anger. And you know what else? Even in the moments when they were just acting normal, that perception colored nearly all of my interactions with them.

Instead, what I've started trying to do in recent weeks is to focus on the 1 Corinthians 13 passage as I reflect on how to interact with my kiddos:
  • Am I patient with them?
  • Am I kind to them?
  • Do I show envy or boasting about them or towards them?
  • Do I demand my own way all the time, or do I say "yes" to them when I can?
  • Do I rejoice in their sin?
  • Do I keep score of their wrongs? (like my "stamping" I talked about earlier!)
  • Do I delight in the truth?
  • Do I bear difficult things graciously?
  • Am I hopeful in my interactions with them? Do I teach them to hope in God?
  • Do I choose to believe them, or am I suspicious and distrustful?
  • Do I endure in difficult times, or will I fail them by giving up and giving in to my own selfishness?
I'm trying to focus on loving them, and the more I do, the more that I find that my love for them grows. So I'm gonna keep working on it. Cause they're worth it. They're awesome little people. And I want to love them more.

{End note: I debated about whether or not to share this; it feels so personal. I love my children and am so thankful for each one of them... but I wanted to encourage other moms-- that we all get stuck in ruts sometimes, that stress can rob us of joy, and that we can "get our groove back" in relationships that are wonky. We don't have to settle into a bad habit and just assume that "that's the way our relationship is now". We can choose to love. As Christians, we MUST choose to love. And when we do, joy and delight come.}


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