Loving Well

"In the twilight of our lives, we will be judged on how we have loved."St. John of the Cross

Ahhhhhh! Finally, after ten days, I have more than five minutes to myself! It is truly a phantom to think that any woman can do it all! I have found in my own life, that if I am attending to the needs of my children, Clay,home, close friends and family, I really have to economize and prioritize my time, as my life pretty much demands every moment of me! I do, more and more with each passing day, sense how important my role as a mother and godly woman is and I do get such joy out of it--as I daily see the results of my many years of striving toward the goal of being a woman after God's own heart and serving those around me for His glory.

Now don't get me wrong, this does not mean that I always feel loving towards these strange people who inhabit my home! But because of my love for the Lord, which is more dear to me each year, I keep putting one step in front of the other and see, with the eyes of my heart and mind, the power of my work to fill souls with great thoughts and causes and love for God's kingdom. Mostly, though,I see more clearly how much I am a living picture of God's reality every day, by exhibiting the fruit of the spirit, by giving cups of cold, refreshing water, by serving and giving of myself and my wisdom and teaching and by always taking the initiative to speak life and joy and wisdom on a daily regular basis.

We once had a friend who was very pious. Her attempts to be spiritual and to pray and to "work" for God, I am convinced, were out of a heart that was striving to figure out how to really know God and serve Him sincerely. Yet, the result of all the denying of self, and speaking piously and working, working, working, left most the people in her life feeling guilty and feeling a bit cold and far off from her. Since it is obvious she had not experienced the grace and peace of God, she could only give out of a soul of performance which brings about death to  relationship. She often only spoke in religious phrases and with each passing month seemed more cold and drained of life. Just the result she wouldn't want.

As I have been pondering this situation, in contrast, I have realized that when I am in the presence of someone who really walks with God, I feel there is such an evidence of life and joy and goodness and well-being and grace and faith. When one is washed with the unconditional love and grace and mercy of God, the result is peace and thankfulness of heart and humility. Of course the few that I can see really exhibit the life of the Lord, aren't above discouragement or humanity, but there is a palpable sense of a way of walking with God and having made a decision to please Him and to trust Him through the ups and downs of life. There is a security I feel in being with them, because I know their sails have been set toward the King and His Kingdom and I can trust in their integrity to continue journeying in the right direction with Him at the helm. I feel a rest in my relationship with such people because I know I am safe in the hands of mature, seasoned lovers of God who will love me and accept me and point me to Him gently as we walk this road of life in fellowship.

On Saturday, we were getting ready for Easter lunch in which we had about a dozen people coming for lunch. Joy had peeled hard-boiled eggs to make deviled eggs. She then got a bright idea of how to make it easier, even though I had suggested the easiest way to fill the eggs. The result was a mess everywhere--I have never seen so much egg yellow on the hands of any one individual! How in the world had she managed to make such a mess? This at the end of a long afternoon of cooking and counseling another teen! She could sense how irritated I was with her! The Lord then gave me eyes to see this hormonal, young woman-my sweet little girl in the throes of growing up. She had "hurt" eyes as she watched me clean up her mess! Then I sat her down, and after having a couple of minutes to think about what I was going to say, I told her how much I appreciate all the ways she had been available to help me in setting the table and going shopping and putting up with the several hours of work we had all done. I told her that I didn't always get my cooking right and how frustrated I often felt when I had put a lot of time into something like making bread or trying a new recipe, when it failed or tasted terrible. I told her I loved her said, "I am sorry if I offended you in any way. You are such a treasure to me and I know you were trying to do a good job. Thanks so much for all the ways you have helped me this week."

The result was that a few minutes later, she climbed into my lap, all long, gangly almost teenage legs and all and said, "I am so thankful that you always love me, mommy." a kiss on the cheek and she was gone.

I know that the older I get and the more I see my own selfishness and immaturity, the more grateful I am that I know I don't have to perform for the Lord. He is mindful that I am but dust, and yet He still calls me His own special child. The amount of times in which He has had to bear with me and love me and give me grace has made me so much more apt to love and forgive and bear with my sweet, but immature children and husband and friends. I know they will make mistakes and be selfish and sinful just like me, but I know that I can only please God and have peace in my own heart when I choose to love them back. And in loving them, my own heart swells with more love and good thoughts and a generous heart.

For instance, this is how it works in my own life. Sometimes, I will have a critical thought toward Clay or the kids or a friend. I know that if I foster the thought, it nurtures self-righteousness and resentment and anger. But when I choose to look at the relationship with eyes of love, to take the thought or attitude captive, I can get perspective--this is a person dear to me, I have a history with this person, they have a personality that comes with many flaws as mine is---I am not primarily the focus of their lives--they do not live to hurt my feelings! I need to remember that love covers a multitude of sin. (Or I remember that this person is immature toddler or exhausted baby or hormonal young woman or middle aged hormonal woman or somewhat retarded "teen" young man or a tired, worn-out husband from days of work.) Then I remember how much I need grace in all of my own fragile times. I also call to mind--I will please my precious, patient Lord Jesus if I obediently act in love. So, I cover the person with grace, say words of patience and kindness and then I am amazed that my feelings of love usually follow and the relationship even gets better. This is not a formula that always works--I am not looking for always having the right results--but it is a way of life, that practiced over years and years, has turned my heart more towards loving and resting and accepting and in return being so blessed in such love that the Lord pours out into my heart. I have learned that if I sow love, I will reap love. Such a blessing to me in return. And all learned at the feet of He who loves me most and best.

Indeed, in the end, how we loved will be a measure of how we lived. May God give you grace today to love well and to walk on His pathway of love and grace.