Tuesday, February 14, 2017

If you don't get a single Valentine today ... and even if you do ...

During the past six months, my heart has increasingly been wooed to turn my attention and focus toward our home and the people in it.

This pull toward focusing most of my attention and action toward home and family began this past summer as my heart was breaking over the deep pain of children who were suffering from wounds that were inflicted on their hearts in their own homes or from not having a family and safe place to truly call home. 

In a moment of serendipity at this time, I came across the book, A Life-Giving Home, by Sally and Sarah Clarkson, two of my favorite writers. In the February chapter, the Clarkson ladies talk about creating a culture of love within our homes -- a culture of true, unconditional love where the people in your care are free to be wholly themselves, completely messy and beautiful all at once, and are free to be loved through it all. 

One of the suggestions I liked for February was to focus my attention on loving my kiddos and husband through gifting them with life-giving words. So I set out to create ten days worth of Valentines for all six of the people in my home.  

In true optimistic maximizer fashion, I bit off a little more than I could easily chew with doing 60 valentines, but I set to work on praying over the Valentines for each of them. I cut out hearts in a shade of paper specific to each person, and I began calling out character traits I see strongly in each of them or developing in each person. I wrote scripture to go with each one so as to encourage them to live into the deep love God has for each of them and help them understand that God created them on purpose for a purpose. 


Seven and some hours, yes seven hours, later {over the course of a few days}, I wrote the last one, and I felt excited, admittedly tired, admittedly glad I was finishes and sincerely glad to have spent the time on them. Before I began I dedicated this project to God and expected nothing in return -- I simply gave it to God for His use in the hearts of these people, praying that they would know and understand love differently than before.

So at this point, I have to tell you something important -- I'm not sharing all of this to inspire you to do it in your own home. I also want to be completely transparent and share that because I took this project on I didn't do laundry for quite a few days, and I may have served sandwiches for dinner several times.

And I was a little cranky, especially after one of the kids barely even read her first Valentine and another of the children asked me where the chocolate was to go with the card and ... well, you know the types of things kids say and do in response to our gifts and love, so you can probably imagine.

This is the part I want you to tune into more than the Valentines Day heart idea:

There was a lot of love coming out from me, and I am not a magical supply of love never-ending love all by myself.

If I don't take the time to allow myself to be filled, I get really cranky really fast.

And.



If we're going to create a culture of love within our homes ... first we have to allow a culture of love to be created in our hearts. 

This kind of deep-well filling love doesn't come easy. Oftentimes my husband, my kids, my friends and anyone else around me cannot fill me enough to keep me in a state of overflow because I constantly have so much going out at all times.

Most of the time there are not enough sticky hugs, cute things said, dishes washed and thank yous given to fill up the vast well inside of my heart from which all else -- my words, actions, thoughts and behavior -- flows.

So I was cranky.

And that's when God said -- Hey, Hyacynth, when I pressed this idea onto you heart I did give you the wisdom to know not to expect anything in return from your children and husband. BUT I never asked you to do this all without expecting anything in return FROM ME. Your well is running dry, and you need to be filled so that good things can come out again. Take the time to sit with me. You are my Valentine, and I have something to say.

Admittedly it was difficult to stop what I was doing because, mind you, I was already behind from taking this task on but I managed to convince myself that we could go one more day without laundry being cleaned and I could sit with God and hear what God had to say.

That's when He blew me away, my sweetest Valentine, because as I prayed I felt the sense that God wanted to show me what He sees in me; I got the sense that He wanted to call out in my own life what He created me to be and encourage me to keep living into the me He created me to be.

So, I let God write me a Valentine.

As I sat down with my tea and my Bible and my journal and colorful pens, a song that's been important to me for you years played on the radio and I heard a verse I had never heard before in the way I was hearing it: that His love never fails. And I felt God whispering to my heart that nothing could separate me from His great love. And didn't I know that I'm more than a conqueror in Christ?

As I began to write and draw, I knew from the next song that followed, too, that this was exactly what God wanted me to know about myself -- that I did not have to fear anything because nothing can separate me from His love. That I am strong and I am brave and I am not just a conqueror, but that I am MORE than a conqueror in Christ.

As I reflected on these truths and in soaked in the music, I could feel my heart fill to a state of overflow. And as I went about my day and fears or lies would sneak in, I could easily push them away with the truth. And the truth is that I am a conqueror, an overcomer.

God had written me a Valentine much in the way I had written my children and husband Valentines and those words of encouragement and strength began to carry me.

I sat down again with Him for another time another day, and again, He wrote me another Valentine. This time that I am growing in grace and wisdom. And how perfectly those affirmations were a salve over hurting parts of my heart. How this encouragement gave my heart hope to carry on and carry out love from the overflow, I'll never be able to explain fully.

Today I'll sit with Him again, on Valentines Day, and today, my heart longs anticipates and longs to know what my Valentine will say.

And I pray that you, too, will tune into the Valentine that not only knows your soul but created it so that the wellsprings in your heart, too, may overflow with the kind of love that quenches the thirst of the many in your presence ... and the thirst of your own dear heart. Because you matter, too, even when it doesn't feel like it.

You'll always be God's loved and chosen Valentine. Let this love first overflow your hearts because it will then overflow into your homes. 


{For what it's worth, creating a culture of love has been quite sticky among my family members. Several Valentines wishes and greetings have circulated today. I'm deeply grateful for the Clarkson ladies giving words to how they created a culture of love in their home because it has inspired me to think of what would create one in our family.}





Monday, February 13, 2017

He brings me flowers

A few weeks ago, I was walking the aisles of our grocery store, and I stopped to linger in the beauty of the flowers surrounding me as snow flurries swirled around just outside the glass window.

It's the middle of winter here in Chicago-land. Flowers right now are either plastic or found in the store. The prairie outside of our home is beautiful in its own winter-way but color is lacking. As I stood among the flowers and breathed in the beauty through smell and sight, I wished to buy a bouquet. But that same beauty-loving part of me that loves the beauty of flowers recognizes the beauty in bringing our 16 year old daughter home through adoption, decided to pinch the pennies {the many pennies that it would take to buy the flowers}. And in my heart I dedicated the wished-for-flower money toward the beauty of family together again.

My heart was good with it. It was worth it; love always is. I didn't regret my decision. But I lingered a little longer in the flowers than normal, soaking up their loveliness.

My birthday dawned a few days later, and my husband and some of my kiddos and a few friends went out of their way to make my day bright and special. Despite having some big feelings over a few hurting relationships that were magnified on that day, it was a lovely and life-giving and beauty-full day. Life is always a clashing juxtaposition, isn't it?

Later that evening after many of the kiddos were settled in bed, my husband came upstairs to tell me that a friend was at the door and wanted to say hello.

I came down the stairs to find one of my fellow Mothers of Preschoolers mamas standing in my front door way, bundled up in her coat, holding a beautiful bouquet of flowers.

For me.

She didn't know about my flower aisle conversation and my giving the longing for that kind of beauty over to God.

She didn't have any idea about any of that, but she did feel the urge to bring me flowers that night despite the cold and despite the later hour.

And I know she felt that urge inside of her because God put it there; He worked through her to bring me flowers.

At the end of the day as I looked at the flowers on my kitchen table, lovely bursts of color and smell, amid the cold of the last day of January, I also marveled over how seen and known I felt when I realized each of the four birthday cards given to me also had sparkly, glittery flowers on them.

I could feel tears welling in my eyes as God whispered that He sees me and He loves me always.

All of the time.

And that He loves me so much He went over the top and found a way to bring me flowers.

He sees you today, mama. And if you, too, have been longing for flowers, these ones are for you, too.









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