We are just past Valentine’s day 2020 and I have consistently been focused on the word, the idea, the meaning and the act of LOVE this month. I set an intention to focus on this, and it’s been very interesting to sit back and see how this focus has brought about some new insights and new practices into my little part of the world.
Here’s what I’ve learned and observed:
Love takes PATIENCE - Not only with others, but with yourself. In my life it’s with toddlers, who want to do everything on their own, or take FOREVER to pick out just the right bedtime story. It’s also with the husband, who’s busy with providing, building, and responding to work issues. And seemingly, but not purposely, forgets to pay attention to the things that are important in my world. But ultimately, love takes patience with yourself. To take the time to slow down and breathe into each moment and not respond in an unloving way when things don’t go your way. It takes PATIENCE.
Love takes FOCUS - I don’t know about you, but I don’t always exude love. There are days where I exude busyness, anxiety, frustration, determination, strength, independence, harshness, shortness and all out meanness. I’m not lumping all these things into one space, they can come out at different times and sometimes for very good and right reasons. I obviously don’t do this on purpose or in a manner that is intentionally trying to cause harm. And yet, it happens when I don’t remember my focus of love. It takes FOCUS.
Love takes FORGIVENESS - You CANNOT hold on to past hurts, daily inconveniences, or even fleeting and untrue thoughts in your head. You have to acknowledge them and then let them go. First, forgive yourself for having the thought, then, forgive the person or act that prompted the thought and just LET IT GO! Be sure you don’t ignore things that should not be ignored and make sure that you don’t avoid tough conversations, but do let it go, so you don’t miss the love right in front of you! It takes FORGIVENESS.
Love takes CHOICE - You have to choose it and embrace it. It’s a daily focus that you must pick up and carry. It’s like an umbrella shading you from the sun, the rain, and the wind. And while that umbrella keeps you safe and dry, that sun, rain and wind turns into some amazing things if you let it land where it’s supposed to. It takes CHOICE.
Love takes LISTENING - I’ve learned that listening is something we have to cultivate. In order to understand and love someone well, we have to listen to them. We have to actively engage with them by asking questions, by clarifying, by repeating, by using that patience and most of all by not making assumptions. It takes LISTENING.
Love takes KINDNESS - Kindness is like chocolate fudge on top of ice cream, as if love isn’t enough, you add some sprinkles or pour kindness all over it and yeah, it’s like that! I find myself constantly asking my little one to “be kind.” And while I came up with the description above, kindness is a hard concept to understand. And I’ve realized that as my daughter is growing. She’s learning how to be independent, to do things on her own and while her intentions may be good, her approach can easily be interpreted as unkind. You can see this played out almost daily. So teaching it feels a bit ethereal and hard. It takes focusing on tones, facial expressions, the use of appropriate words, and in the appropriate order. It takes KINDNESS.
Love takes FOLLOW UP - What do I mean by this? It means following up with people, staying connected and in touch with friends, with family and with your community. I have to admit, I’ve been really terrible at this, and I’m intentionally trying to get better. What I’ve found is that I’ve connected my feelings and expectations to a lot of actions. And this is not a recipe for success. What do I mean? I either have expectations about what I should or should not say or I have assumptions about the other party or worse yet, I believe I should “feel” a certain way before I respond. This has left me with a lot of anxiety and a lot of procrastinating. Over time, it just built up more social angst and crippled me from actually doing anything at all. So one of my goals for this year, is to get better at follow-up and to love myself enough to release me from all the things I mentioned that are holding me back. At the end of the day, I love so many people and responding to them well and in a timely manner should reinforce that. It takes FOLLOW UP.
Love takes COURAGE - I have passions, I have strong beliefs and I have opinions. These have been formed over my lifetime and through life experiences. I am a believer in Jesus and just that in itself takes courage. But even more important, I have a relationship with Jesus that has led me to desire to love others in a way that may sometimes seem counter-cultural. This can cause friction in my family, in my friend groups, in my social activities, in my mom groups, in my community groups, in my church, and in having any online presence (this blog). I pray and I remind myself not to worry about pleasing others. Love takes COURAGE.
Love takes SUPPORT - You can’t love in a vacuum. You can’t love all by yourself, at least I don’t believe it’s possible. Love takes a community, it takes friends, partners, and family that are willing to be messy. Ones who are willing to love, to forgive, to listen and even like I told my husband recently - to HUG. I let him know that I need more hugs and knowing that, he was willing to fulfill my needs. Human physical touch, we need it, please go and hug your humans, and if none are around, hug your animals and if none of those, take your arms and HUG YOURSELF! Know how you need to be supported and learn to ask for that support (I have a new blog coming soon about ASKING). Love takes SUPPORT.
As I was writing, I was reminded of scripture, of love songs, of movies, of conversations with loved ones. And I thought, yeah so what? What am I supposed to do with this love thing?
I say, you add it to your day, in whatever way you can. Figure out how to remind yourself of what kind of love you want to give and what kind of love you want to receive or need. This may sound a bit silly, but write yourself a love reminder. Tape it to your computer, your mirror, put a reminder on your phone. Take than and turn it around to writing someone you know a love note. I’m not talking extravagant, but maybe just a note that says, I love you because ________________ or You are important to me because ____________. Or just smile wherever you go, that’s love and it will change your atmosphere.
Don’t let the completion of the passing holiday bust up your love spirit. Keep on loving - loving you, loving your family, loving your friends, and loving your community! Love on!