Thursday, February 14, 2013

Reflections: Receiving Little Acts of Love

Confession: we've dropped the ball.  You may have noticed that our daily postings have not been so measuredly daily this week.  For some cosmic reason, separate chaoses hit Amy, Megan, and me all this week causing us to fall a bit behind.  We apologize to you, our reader, with a hopeful reassurance that although this (meaning "life") may happen to us from time to time, we are getting back on track.

My particular chaos this week was a headache.  A brain-splitting headache.  I get headaches of the light-and-sound-sensitive variety fairly regularly...the kind of headaches that make you want to crawl into a dark, quiet hole...forever.  The kind of headaches that make you wish your head would just explode and get it over with.  Unfortunately, holes and explosions are inconvenient or impossible for most people, and especially for mothers of small, needy children.  I exist for my sons...the almost 2-year-old Judah running around screaming and the baby boy I am carrying in my belly.  There are many things you are denied during pregnancy.  The most heinous of these prohibitions is ibuprofen. Tylenol has never done me a lick of good.  It is the most useless drug on the planet.  I'm pretty sure that sugar pills would more effectively cure one of my headaches.

All that to say...yesterday when I was supposed to be writing today's blog post, I had a headache. After about my fifth prompt to Judah of, "That sound hurts mama's head.  Can you try another sound?," he came over to the couch where I was fetal-positioned with my head in my hands. Usually, when I am trying to rest, he uses every ounce of strength he possesses to pick my head up and force me to give him my full attention.  But yesterday, at the height of my pain, he climbed onto the couch and rested his head on my lap.  For a full five minutes.  He didn't try to move me.  He didn't make a sound.  He just rested with me.  I don't think I'm being overly dramatic when I say that it was a miracle.
I spend a lot of time thinking about how I want to love people husband, my friends, my church community, my parents, my sisters, my nieces and nephews, people in need, people who don't know Jesus...but especially my children.  I want to give them everything.  I'm pretty hard on myself about it.  And yet, one of the clearest places that I receive God's love and grace and forgiveness is through my son.  When I first had Judah, I learned so much about loving unconditionally.  It was such a new experience to love someone so completely who could offer me nothing in return.  But as I've grown into motherhood a bit, I have learned so much about being loved unconditionally.  Whatever mood I'm in, however messy my house is, whatever I have failed to do or to be on a given day, Judah loves me.  Because he is my son, and I am his mama.  And when Judah loves me in my weakest moments, I am reminded that even when I don't deserve it, God loves me.  Because I am His child, and He is my God.  It's as simple (and beautiful and mysterious) as that.

I mentioned in last Friday's post that God leaves little love notes for us all over if we have the eyes to see them.  In my life, Judah is often the mailman for God's love notes to me.  Maybe your mailman is the beauty of nature...or time spent in Scripture...or a warm cup of tea.  Where do you find your love letters?  Where is the veil between heaven and earth just a little thinner?  Maybe it changes from day to day.

If nothing comes immediately to mind, there is a spiritual discipline called the Prayer of Examen that may be helpful.  Basically, it is the practice of reflecting on your day to notice where God is moving. Here are some questions (taken from Adele Calhoun's Spiritual Disciplines Handbook*) that can help you discern where God is breaking through into your day:
*As a sidenote, the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook is an excellent resource, which gives brief descriptions, prompts, and examples of how to practice over 60 different spiritual disciplines.  I highly recommend it.
  • For what moment today am I most grateful? For what moment today am I least grateful?
  • When did I give or receive the most love today? When did I give or receive the least love today?
  • When today did I have the deepest sense of connection with God, others, and myself? When today did I have the least sense of connection?
  • Where was I aware of living out of the fruit of the Spirit? Where was there an absence of the fruit of the Spirit?
  • (and my personal favorite:) What was the most life-giving part of my day? What was the most life-thwarting part of my day?
Pick one pair of questions that resonates with you.  Asking yourself these questions can help you to take notice of God's activity in your day.  They draw attention to blessings and lessons that may otherwise be missed.  Most of all, the prayer of examen is an invitation to talk to God about each day's moments of victory and defeat, and to receive His loving presence in the midst of it all.

We have a God who longs to reveal Himself to us.  We all have unopened love letters from the God of the universe!  There are the big ones of Scripture and the Incarnation and the invitation to salvation through Jesus.  But there are also His little acts of love every day that can be so easily missed.  I encourage you to take a little time--even just 5 or 10 minutes--to reflect on where God was speaking to you today.  How did He send you His love?

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