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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Learning to Say "I Love You"

    I frequently find myself in the mindless act of parking-lot driving to keep the babies asleep while John runs in a store to get something that he expects will take about 20 minutes or less (hopefully).  I know this wastes gas and is not good for the environment.  However, two sleepy babies who need sleep take priority right now.  If you put the car into park and turn it off, then one or both of them always wakes up within 2-3 minutes.  These babies are on a pretty good schedule, and we try not to interrupt it, but sometimes the older kids and life events, and church disrupts that schedule, resulting in their nap time happening somewhere other than home.  I try to keep their naps as long as possible because it rewards us with happy, healthy babies. Back to my story, sometimes I am the only other person in the car with the sleeping babies because the kids are at school, but sometimes one or more of the older kids is with me.  I found myself in this situation a few nights ago.

     I sat with one of our girls in the car driving around the sleeping babies, while John ran into Wal-Mart with the boys.  I have to initiate conversation, and she answers shortly at first, then relaxes and opens up more and we have a good time of talking and sharing about Christmas.  I asked if she remembered learning that Santa wasn't real.  I shared the way I learned when a friend told me and I was in disbelief.  I asked if she had a favorite Christmas memory (sadly, she didn't).  I shared how my grandparents surprised us by showing up one day on Christmas morning when I was 16, and it was because they came to see my reaction first-hand when my parents give me my first car. We were both laughing and having a good time, driving so slowly in the dark, around the parking lot.  I felt God saying, "Tell her you love her." My flesh is not so obedient all the time, and I tried to ignore this at first, and just continue the conversation. "Tell me about what Christmas was like at your house." A few minutes later, I felt it again, "Tell her you love her."  I try to do the next best thing, and pay her a really good complement on her responsible and hard-working character and tell her I appreciate her.  She smiles and conversation continues.  It wasn't good enough (disobedience never is).  I am feeling very strongly that God is asking me to do this, and it's the third time within 15 minutes, and finally our conversation has a pause.  I did it. "I love you." I was surprised to hear back, a little quieter than her conversation tone, "I love you too." I had to blink back tears.  Then God said in my heart, the way he so wonderfully does, "I love you too." *Break through on obedience!* Thank goodness John and the boys were done, and they loaded back up right then, and the quiet moment was over, or I would have had to get some kleenex.

     I think I am very good at expressing love to my immediate family.  I do not struggle to tell John that I love him frequently.  It would be difficult to actually not croon it softly to Jonah all the time.  I tell my parents a lot, partly because it was the way I was raised.  Love was frequently spoken in our house.  I can at any time, stop and hear my parents' voices in my head saying, "I love you and I'm very proud of you."   As a foster parent to small children, it was easy to tell those little kids.  We actually started telling them, "I love you, and Jesus loves you too!" Until the 2 year old could say, "I love you," and we'd say, "I love you too.  Who else loves you?" and she'd say in her sweet little voice, "Cheezz-usss luff me."  However, as a House Parent now with older kids, I have felt God teaching me/coaxing me to tell them "I love you" too.  I do love them, so it shouldn't be hard.  However, they are much older, and they understand what it means, and I don't want them to think I am joking or being flippant, or even patronizing them.  It doesn't just roll off my tongue so easily in conversation or during transitions in the day.  I have been really praying about this, and trying to do better with it.  So far I have noticed that the younger the kids are, the easier it is for me to tell them I love you.  I also notice that I sometimes use it not so lovingly as a precursor to semi-bad news (i.e. "I love you, but you have GOT to stop humming that annoying song!"), and that is not how God wants me to say it either.  He wants the Romans 12 sincerity.  Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

     I'm not sure when exactly I felt I needed to say it more.  I think it revolved around suddenly intensely feeling God tell me, "I love you," the more I engaged in mindful constant prayer.  I connect parenting with trying to show and share God's love.  So, if God is always telling me (us), his child(ren) that He loves me (us), I came to the realization that as a parent it is my responsibility to share my love with my kids just like God shares His love with me (us).  I strongly feel I am to share the words "I love you" not just with Jonah, but any kid who I am "parenting" in any sense of the word.

     When we first got married, John and I read "The Five Love Languages" (at the strong urging of my grandmother actually, who bought us the book), and we discovered that I am almost completely Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch oriented to feeling loved. To me the words "I love you" are so powerful.  I realize they may not be to everyone.  We are now on break (hence the time to write and read more blogs), but when we get back, I plan to give the kids the children's love languages quiz to find out how they most feel loved, and then make a plan of action to implement it.   I already try to cook and prepare foods they like.  We take them places they enjoy as often as possible when time and money permit us.  Whether or not they list Words of Affirmation as important, I know God is leading me to tell them more often.  Please pray for me on this one.  I know they desperately need to hear these valuable words from me more, and I'm not sure why I am having a difficult time genuinely saying them, but I want to be obedient, and I want to share love.  Please feel free to share ideas/thoughts on ways to make this easier/better!

(I am almost finished with the promised post about our set of 4 foster kids - I couldn't find the right pictures).

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