There are moments when all the matter of emotion in my heart gets stirred up like a sand storm over these children and it hurts - literally, physically breaks me. Oh that they know it! That the particles of it are swirling on their skin and get caught up in their nostrils, that they might inhale it deeply. Believing. Yes, I want them to know it deep-down-deep and own it, assured. They are loved.
I whisper it fiercely, sing it sweetly, tickle their backs with the skin-to-skin reminder. "I love you." More than words, "I love you" is real and near and safe, here in their childhood home.
Seven things that communicate this safety net we call Love
1) Good Morning Rubs - Wake your children with a touch and gentle words - I know that mornings can be rush, and grace can be elusive when we're hurrying out the door, but here at the beginning of summer purpose to indulge in slow waking up moments with a song and a rub. My children especially enjoy a good butt rub as I sing, Rise and shine and give God the glory!
2) Breakfast Prayers - My children don't get rote prayers at the breakfast table around these parts. Once their food is on the table we bow our heads and give a shout out to the one who gave us each new day, the sun on the rise, the unifying love of brotherhood, the flowers beyond our kitchen window, the zipline in the yard beyond. Now don't for a second think that my middle kid isn't sneaking sips of milk, or that the youngest isn't kicking the oldest under the table. I'm just flat out determined to praise God for each new day regardless. I've decided that harping about their disrespectful attitude during breakfast prayers won't help them grow up to praise God any better. So a gentle reminder is what I give, then I wrap it up with an Amen let's eat!
3) Ordinary, every day celebrations - Whether it is dinnertime in front of the TV or picnics in the back yard, saying yes to home-front adventures of the simplest variety communicates that family is a celebration. My mom used to randomly throw us Teddy Bear Parties. We would bring all our stuffed animals to the dinner table - every chair in the house, pulled into the dinning room for our stuffed friends, and always cake for desserts. Soft, cuddly, tasty, celebratory memories of a mother's love.
4) Relationships with dear friends - Allowing other adults to pour love into the lives of our little ones is paramount. Having an occasional "girl's night out" is crucial for mom, but don't forget to get families together and OFTEN! Grow family friendships, break bread, vacation together. Love one anther's kids like family, bless one another's children, and be there for celebrations and sorrows alike. This past year my kids' school had a grandparents day and none of our grandparents could be there, so one of our best adult friends showed up in the middle of his work day to tour the children's classrooms. "Uncle Pat," they called our friend, and their hearts swelled. I have no doubt that in the years to come my boys will turn to Uncle Pat for counsel and encouragement many times.
5) Traditions are the roads that love travels down time and again - Friday night movie nights, water skiing at the lake every summer, playing chess with dad, date nights with mom... traditions are those things (big and small) that you do over and over again and again. A pathway in little brains, going deeper and deeper each time the familiar road is trod upon. The message is spoken over again as batch after batch of brownies come out of kitchen ovens... "You are worth celebrating. I love being with you. Our family is all about love!"
6) Word's of life - His pupils take over the speckled colors of his eyes. Dilating in response to words that say I love you. Every time I lean into the quiet and whisper, "I really like you son. I like the way you treat your Grandma, the way you help me in the kitchen, the way you serve the little kids at church. You are such a sweetheart of a boy and I just like being with you so much. You are going to be a wonderful husband one day, such a good daddy. I love watching you grow up!"
7) Read books that model love - The love in a home between husband and wife, the love between a man and his God, the love between brothers and friends. Lift up your voice and baptize your children with the pictures of love throughout literature, poetry, and the Bible.
8) Don't beat around the bush, talk about love point blank - Bathe them in conversation about love in all its various forms. And point it out, praise them for loving in the every day moments of living. "I just saw you love your brother! Good job loving me tonight with your hugs and your words. You showed love for our neighbors today when you swept their driveway!"
9) Night time Blessings - I thought that tuck-ins were going to be delightful with young children. They proved harder, not so simple, with one issue or another arising each night. But I believe in persevering through the melt-downs and demands. I press on, through I'm exhausted, because I want my children to remember their Mama's voice singing blessings over them. "Praise God from whom all blessings flow, Praise Him all creatures here below, Praise Him above ye heavenly host, Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." That's a good one there; A doxology to end long days. Or our family's favorite nighttime tune: "The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face shine upon you, and give you peace forever..."
10) Our private prayers - After the children are down for the night, or scattered throughout your days in an unceasing sort of way... pray. Pray that the Lord's Holy Spirit continues to chase your children down and woo them to faith. Pray that God's Spirit knits the hearts under your roof together in a supernatural way as you all sleep. Pray for His unifying love to fill and overflow from every heart in your home. Ask like a squeaky wheel each night that God would speak truth into the ears of your beloveds: "You are loved and safe here in this family. You will grow to love and serve Me here. You will love as you have been loved and care as you have been cared for. Home is My gift to you. Home."
Dear Moms and Dads, (and listen up my own heart too) this short season that stretches on in the most weary making way, is designed by Love for love. God, who is love, planned the family as He did that we might love well and train them up to love their own generation and the next. Love is not this elusive thing to be private about. Love is radical and purposeful and a muscular sort of life that saves and serves and celebrates. Love is our calling. Love is the Light and the Salt and the heartbeat in every believer's breast. Love is like an arbor grounding our children. Love gives them the vision and the strength they will need to one day go out and build similar arbors of safety for those they love well on the other side of childhood.
Loving is an honor, our high calling. I want to grab it purposefully with my own two hands and build it well with my words and my touches and my reading and my singing, my laughter and my tuck-ins and my wake-ups, and my “come to the dinner” hollers into the back yard. All of it communicating this: I love you.
The Calling In What Remains Of Your Life
by John Blase
The eyes of the aspen are watching to see if before you cross over to that next place you’ll take your simple life and grind it up in your imagination so as to build exquisite arbors of memory your children and children’s children can stand beneath and find shade. If you are faithful to this calling then future generations might pause beneath the shelter of your effort, shored up with the knowing that one of their kin dared each day to look unafraid into the very heart of this sorrowed heaven on earth and that even in the vex of grief said thank you, thank you for it all. The eyes of the aspen are watching to see if you’ll spend the remains of your life this way. If so these earthly angels promise gold as you surrender, a quaking whisper of those forgotten words from the old book: well done.