Stop Wasting Valentine’s Day

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Memes and blogs have been choking my newsfeed from women who claim THEY aren’t buying into traditional Valentine’s day hype because they are ok with just a card and chocolates (or taco bell according to one meme) or just a regular date, nothing fancy.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but ….you are still buying into it. Just because you aren’t settings your expectations high does not change that you have them.

I actually don’t buy into Valentine’s Day. I never really have. I looked at it from a historical perspective and thought it seemed a really strange day to celebrate romance so as a teen I dutifully received the roses and chocolates and jewelry from boys each year but the joke was on them because I wouldn’t have cared if I didn’t.

By college I told gentlemen I dated that Valentine’s Day really wasn’t my thing and I don’t like fresh flowers or wear much jewelry and chocolate should really be an anytime/ all the time gift but it tastes better when I pay half price after a holiday. When I found my husband he thankfully shared my views on the day and it passed without recognition most years except once when we decided other people spend money on Vday so we could totally go buy a Costco membership and call it a gift to ourselves.

A few years ago though I realized I was wasting Valentine’s Day, thanks to our pastor who really emphasizes that our lives need to be about service, starting with random acts of kindness expecting nothing in return. Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to show love to strangers without making them worry you are crazy!

We still don’t go on a date, buy each other stuff or even do cards but my husband and I totally celebrate Valentine’s Day now! We use it as a day to be mindful and go out into the community sharing Christ’s love and expecting nothing in return. I buy chocolates and roses and ribbons and make a few dozen Valentine’s “gifts” complete with scriptures of love then we head to places like malls with lots of people and let ourselves (and our kids!) be led to those who need some extra love that day.

If you feel loved every other day of the year try using Valentine’s Day as a day to show love to OTHER people, people you don’t normally show love to, maybe even people you don’t know! I promise you will not feel like you wasted Valentine’s Day!

 “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” I John 4:9-10

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*Somehow women choosing not to celebrate is ok but men get painted as awful if they allow it so before my poor husband catches any heat, our decision not to celebrate Valentine’s day was mindful, deliberate and led by me, he even tried some small gestures in our early years of marriage but he knows me well enough to see I meant it and that stuff was wasted on me .* 

 

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Love Doesn’t Change.

While the lights of the stadium still blazed at the Super Bowl last night and families in homes across the nation debated the merits of puppymonkeybaby or doritos dogs I had another thought.

A sadder one. A darker one. One that kept me awake for hours as I lay listening to my children’s peaceful breathing.

There are many people near that stadium tonight who would not have been celebrating no matter the outcome. When you are trapped in the sex trafficking industry there is little to celebrate.

This may seem like a strange introduction to the phrase Love Doesn’t Change but that’s exactly what my son reminded me as I hugged him while we chatted this morning.

I tell my children frequently that love doesn’t change. It’s a simple statement that reminds them of a powerful truth we discuss often. My love for them will never change into anything different than love. It can grow of course but it will never change into something else and nothing they do or anyone else does could ever cause it too. Even more importantly God’s love for them will never change either, someday I will explain the types of love to them but for now, the word Love is enough on it’s own.

This simple step; an open, ongoing dialog that reminds them there is absolutely nothing in the world that could make me or their dad stop loving them is the first step in preventing them from ever being one of those people trapped in the trafficking industry.

When children know they will be loved in any circumstance, even unspeakable ones, they become a very difficult target for predators. Predators don’t want to be noticed by the herd, they pick off those they can take most quietly and easily. When a child is too afraid to tell you something because they don’t know it wouldn’t change your feelings they become the quiet prey. Let them know. Tell them. You love them and nothing could ever change that because love doesn’t change, not real love, not the kind a parent has for a child or Christ has for us.

 

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Parenting is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

The funny thing about training for a 100 yard dash and a marathon is that there would be some areas of overlap because both require your body to be in running shape but they would look very different in other areas because the end goals are so different. In the sprint you only need an explosive burst that can take you very fast for a fairly short time, in a marathon you need to run at less than your maximum speed for a very long time. A sprint and a marathon are not the same thing and a sprinter would be ill prepared for a successful marathon if they trained the same as usual.

Here’s the thing though: Parenting is a marathon. It just is, it’s a race that requires stamina, distance and…time. You can’t squeeze a marthon into a half hour no matter how you try because the distance is too great, it requires patience.

The problem comes in when we try to treat parenting like a series of sprints. If I can just get my kid to behave right now in this store and not embarass me, if I can get them potty trained, doing well in school, eating better, etc, etc, etc.

When we focus on the small, short term goals and treat them like their own race instead of just a minor milestone on the course we waste energy and more importantly we may be damaging our longterm odds. We are expending unhealthy energy in a moment we don’t have too.

If you tried to run full speed everytime another runner passed you or you saw someone watching, you would exhaust yourself and most likely fail to complete the race, at best you’d be limping in with the last wave. But we do that in parenting all the time. We treat our kids with respect and love, being consistent and patient…until they make a scene in the supermarket then we lose our temper and react angrily or with bribery or by giving in, instead of patiently sticking to the pace we had set we get hurried, frazzled and race toward a short term solution…even if it hurts the long term goal.

If you can remember in that moment your kid is the only one who hasn’t done X yet or is the only teary mess at the party that this parenting thing is not defined by the short term successes and failures but the long term results you may find yourself happier and better able to shake off the occasional judgmental glance or comment.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Proverbs 22:6

(I’ll admit sometimes it feels more like this obstacle race than a marathon. 😉 )

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And a Child Shall Lead Them

My son, whose introverted nature I wrote about here, loves to learn about the Bible and loves to pray and sing about God. He sings “My God is So Big” while running through the front yard hitting things with sticks, asks me to read him “one more” Bible story at least 3 times each night and loves chapel at his daycare. He really loves to pray though, he seems to understand how important it is. On nights when Dad is at work and he and I pray he does not want to recite his “nite nite” prayer he wants to make his own because he wants to thank God for his daddy. When he is done he proceeds to thank the Lord for each member of his family by name, for Jesus, for God (yes he thanks God for God but…shouldn’t we all?) as well as every single friend, teacher and pet and he often follows this with the many small wonders adults forget are actually tiny miracles like trees and water as well as all the amazing comforts of life in America in the year 2014 such as: my shows, elmo, bathtubs, my toys, our big, big car (which is a camry not a tank as the description might lead you to believe). These lists of gratitude go on in the dark still of his room for minutes until his voice gets slower and heavy with sleep. He never asks God for anything though…in fact my son doesn’t do alot of asking, he is frequently very happy with what he gets. He is a joy to give gifts too because even if there is a pile of presents he will not move one by one like a machine, no he opens one and enjoys it for minutes or hours if allowed before moving to another, a skill a desperately wish to master regarding the gifts I’m given daily.

For the last few months he has had to remind me constantly to pray before we eat. Frequently, as I whirl around in our kitchen throwing something to eat on the table before the exhaustion of the day can catch me, I will plop in my chair, grabbing a bite as I do, only to hear his tiny voice, “Mama, we forgot to pray!” I say your right buddy and take a breath so we can indeed thank the Lord for food to eat, in our warm home with abundance surrounding us. It’s rather backwards for him to have to remind me of this, i’m a devoted follower of Christ, unshakable in my faith and knowledgeable in theology but i’m also a sinful adult, all to often consumed by the busyness of all the “important” day to day matters I must take care of. Jidge is not yet a follower of Christ at the tender age of 3, he cannot explain all the details of Bible stories correctly (in fact he sometimes gets them comically wrong) but he has one thing I don’t, the ability to just love. He loves God purely, without all the entanglements that adults get caught up in and this causes him to remember, every single time we sit to eat, that he is thankful for the meal we are eating only by God’s grace.

I can honestly say he has been teaching me spiritual truths since the day he was born and I felt, for the first time, what it meant to love someone so selflessly and completely you would be willing to die for them. But these days its different, he is not just teaching me truth by existing but by his own heart and intentions and actions. As we sat down for Easter dinner at my in laws this last weekend, my child who can barely speak to his extended family because of his own shyness and nerves gleefully prayed clear and pure over our meal in front of all the adults and children present without a second thought. His own comfort at speaking was forgotten entirely as he chose to honor God and for that moment he was not a shy three year old, he was a confident young man strengthened by the power of Christ.

I’m not forgetting to pray these days. In the hustle and bustle of adding a new little one and moving and maternity leave and returning to work I had been forgetting far to often to stop and thank my heavenly father for the gifts, big and little, in my life. My son has reminded me in earnest of the importance of prayer and I am not ashamed to follow his lead, because sometimes a child shall lead them.

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