Loving without agenda

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We all want to love and be loved….we were created to cherish healthy relationships. The ones that make us feel safe, secure, and worthy.

But what about those who cannot love because their past keeps them trapped? Entangled in bitterness. They have witnessed too much disappointment. Betrayal. Too much loss.  Many hold their hearts at a distance because love is too good to be true. For them love is vulnerable and can be used as a dagger pulled out of someone’s arsenal at any moment.

To my dear friends who feel this way, accepting and giving love just is not possible. If you have ever watched someone try to love you but can’t, you know what complete helplessness feels like. You can hear their hearts screaming, “When are you going to leave too? When are you going to take advantage of me? Why would you love ME?” and they push you away, sabotage the relationship, and heap anger on you for all the other people who have hurt them and are not around to take the lashes. In these relationships, we are called to love deeply…..just as we love those who reciprocate. If we don’t, who will break down the walls? Who will chip away at the hardened heart?

We want to sit and wait to be APPRECIATED. We want our love to be accepted, nurtured, and returned. But what about those who cannot? The children in foster care who have been taught by life that being loved is not possible EVER. The children who were raped and are now prostitutes because they were taught that sex is all they have to offer and continue to be beat by their pimps and johns. The children who were given crack for their tenth birthdays by their drug dealer parents and have learned that if your parents won’t protect you, who will? The moms raising special needs children who have been shunned by the playgroup because “that kid” throws too many tantrums and “that mom” is too needy and now she drinks too much and turns off her phone. The shallow, materialistic prima donna  who degrades the manicurist and the grocery store clerk out of her own brokenness because she knows her husband is cheating on her but she won’t walk away because it would be an end to her extravagant lifestyle. The teacher who went from encouraging and uplifting to mean and stern in one year because she is taking care of her dying husband and resents her job because she has to stay to keep her insurance. The child sitting at his mom’s bedside while she takes her final breaths and is screaming inside  that God sucks and this is too hard. The CEO who was told by his dad his whole life that he was worthless and now takes advantage of people to make lots of money and earn the respect of his father and who is repeating the cycle with his own children.

What about them? Do you run the other way? Do you refuse to look them in the eye? Do you gossip about them with your acceptable friends?

The kind of love that Jesus talks about is sacrificial, often painful, and always inconvenient.

And how do we continue to give and not grow weary of rejection? How do we not take it “personally” when we feel attacked? We cry out to God and He hears us. We stop making it about us and realize that the other person’s heart is more important than our own need to be accepted. We love like Jesus loved and expect nothing in return. And we decide that we will do it all again tomorrow. And the next day. Jesus will so fill our emotional tanks that the constant withdrawals by others won’t deplete the resources. Our cups will overflow because of what HE has done. And when people tell us we do too much and that we need to rest and take care of ourselves, we will smile inside because we know where our strength comes from and who the Giver of Grace is. We will know that if we are connected to the Source of our strength, we are unstoppable.

And once we have loved like that, we will never be the same. The gift is not in the giving but in how it changes us.

“Weeping can stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning. ”  Psalm 30:5

 

Teaching Our Children to Redefine Success

Children have developed a very narrow view of success and we, as parents, are responsible for it. Most of the time our children think if they are the star athlete, the top of the class, and the first chair in the orchestra then they have achieved success……but what if we have sold them short in how we have defined it? What if it is bigger than that? What if our definition is producing kids who don’t know how to celebrate accomplishment when it looks different than theirs? I think this is an epidemic in our society.

As parents, we want to make sure that our kids are at the top, while we neglect to acknowledge the miracles happening all around us. Our kids know it too. They know we expect close to perfection and often pressure them as much for our own sense of accomplishment as theirs.  They are blind to the world around them because pulling off the high standards of achievement takes all the energy they have. This idea has troubled me for a long time.

So….years ago I decided to take action.  I was determined to expose my kids to others whose definition of “success” was different than theirs.

When I was open to the idea, opportunities just started to come. Cooper joined reading buddies at his school and every time his buddy reached an AR goal, we celebrated- Easter egg hunts, lots of cheeseburgers, and the finale- safety patrol for the day with the bonus of donuts. He learned that his buddy’s accomplishments of going from a pink dot AR book to a light blue dot was worthy of a party.

 

IMG_1928IMG_1678IMG_1769We also started throwing parties for AR goals met in the classes where they did not have an overflow of eager, available homeroom moms. We CELEBRATED! We partied Ellis style with food, games, and balloons (thank you, bestie Shelly Gerber).

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See, we get stuck in our little worlds, our little classrooms, our little neighborhoods, and our little families. We see our children and maybe their classmates, carpooling, soccer, and baseball friends. But do we really SEE the rest of the population? How can our children see them if we don’t?  Have we taught our children to celebrate others’ successes or just their own?

These ideas came to a pinnacle the week before school was out this year. The week was crammed with so many events- fifth grade banquet, awards, parties, etc. and honestly, I was growing weary the first day of the week because of all the planning that had already happened. So the second to the last day, I was dragging myself through the parking lot- camera and snacks in tow. I was dealing with the sadness of my youngest leaving elementary school and going to  middle school and I was in the midst of a little pity party as I said good-bye to this sweet school I loved so much.

As I pulled myself together, I ran into a precious friend. She was beaming. Glowing. My mind was reeling. What had happened? What could possibly bring that much excitement?? Then she starts talking, a million miles an hour. She said, “I just left the awards ceremony for Audrey! She got the 50 point club for AR! She got perfect attendance! SHE GOT ALL E’s FOR CITIZENSHIP!!!!” In that moment, my heart celebrated right along with my friend because I knew that her daughter’s successes were HUGE! As I walked away, my spirit was full. My joy was complete. Audrey had succeeded.

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The next day was 5th grade awards and my son and all his STEM friends would inevitably rack up the certificates and trophies. I knew going into it that there would be the 500 AR point club, PE student of the year, and even 2 community college scholarships for deserving students. Amazing awards and proud moments. My son was even to win the principal’s award and give a speech to the class and parents.  This was one glowing mama!

I was taking pictures of all the students and about ten minutes into the ceremony, the guidance counselor said to me, “You might want to get ready for the next one.” Not knowing what she was alluding to, I moved in close for the picture. Little did I know that his moment would make me completely undone.

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One of the precious students whose successes we had celebrated for all those years  was getting Most Improved Student of the 5th grade. I could barely hold my camera. I was not just crying, I was weeping.  I saw his teachers beaming with pride, jumping to their feet with applause. I could imagine in this moment my son thinking that this could get embarrassing, as I hooped and hollered like a crazy woman. He was a HERO. MY HERO. HIS TEACHERS’ HERO. The WORLD’S HERO. Why? Because he had overcome the obstacles and won. Simple as that.

What are our children missing when they do not get the opportunity to celebrate with the overcomers of this world?  They are not afforded the privilege to see someone whose success is different than theirs and just as significant. This is how children learn to be givers. This is how they learn to have compassion. They don’t learn it in their gifted classrooms and their all-star sports teams. They learn it in the classrooms where 10 AR points, not 100,  are worth a cheeseburger party and where perfect attendance is worthy of celebrating.