Unfailing love

It is ironic that I am not working now that my kids are in college. I worked through the summer, saving my vacation days to tack on at the end of my employment and I stopped working as they went back for their fall classes. Now that I could be considered a stay-at-home mom they are away. But parenting doesn’t end when kids go to college or enlist in the military, or get a job and move out. Even when I don’t see my kids often I can encourage them with cards, emails, texts, and the occasional phone call. One of my kids usually responds quickly, the other sometimes doesn’t respond. Without much prodding one tells me about classes, friends, activities. The other is less willing to divulge any news. Some days I wonder if it matters that I am trying to stay in touch but I know that the absence of any attempts would be noticed. I ask questions and then do my best to listen and to be open, not judging.

During the winter break each of the kids made a gift for someone else and it was a joy for me to be able to assist them. I helped to pick out the materials they needed and showed them how to do different things – using the sewing machine, staining a wooden board, cleaning the paint brushes. Their acceptance of my involvement was a gift to me! We spent time together working with our hands. They gained skills and confidence, and I gained time with them and a feeling of connection.

Sometimes when I am longing for connection with my kids I think of my relationship with God. I read devotions daily and scriptures often, and I am very involved with my church, but I don’t always take my prayers to a deeper level. When this realization comes to me I imagine that God is waiting for me to turn and seek God’s presence. Some days it is hard for me to accept the idea that God wants my attention and connection just as I am. I don’t have to do more or be more to be loved by God, and God loves me even when I’ve been absent for a while! God doesn’t say “what took you so long?” although I may be thinking that.

Reflecting on my relationship with God helps me to think about my relationships with my almost-adult kids. I am grateful for whatever time we spend together and I don’t need to interpret any lack of response as rejection. I can commit to reaching out with love, consistently, and being receptive to their response whenever and however it comes.

Lord, thank you for your example of unfailing acceptance and love. Amen.

Psalm 13:1, 5 – “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? . . . But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.” (NIV)

New names

My word for the year is love. Other words have come to mind – faith, hope, trust – but as the scriptures point out, “if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2.) Being confident that I am loved allows me to step out in faith. Drawing on love allows me to be patient with myself and others. Love is the path to forgiveness, and the way out of fear. Love is God shining in me, and through me out into the world.

You may have noticed that my last name is Love. That became my married name many years ago and although we later divorced I kept the name. I shared it with my kids, and Dr. Love has been an awesome name to have. Students and parents alike smile or laugh when they hear it. Store clerks and TSA workers comment positively about it. The play on words for my blog and book title has been fun.

This year, however, I am marrying John Van Der Karr and I am choosing to change my name again. It is important to me to signify this new phase in my life, to embrace this new beginning! Throughout the Bible people take on new names as a sign of God’s promises – Abram and Sarai became Abraham and Sarah; Jesus gave Simon a new name, Peter, when Simon met Jesus and became a disciple; after his conversion Saul became Paul. These are name changes that represent dramatic changes in the lives of these people, and a reminder for me that a wedding is the start of a dramatic change in life too. A marriage joins families, brings different groups and customs together, and reminds us to be steadfast in love throughout the ups and downs of our lives.

I like the symbolism of love being my word for the year in the same year that it no longer will be my legal name. My blog title will remain the same, as I don’t have to have the last name of Love to be Inspired by Love. And neither do you. What new name or word might you claim for yourself this year? Write it in the “comments” section below to share it with other readers and to let your light shine brightly. Go ahead! (You can always change it later. 🙂 )

Lord, thank you for being the living word in my life. Amen.

First day of winter

Sunrise was at about 7:20 this morning and sunset will be at 4:32 p.m. The day with the shortest amount of daylight in the northern hemisphere heralds the approach of longer days, although it will be months before warmer temperatures arrive. People in the northern hemisphere celebrate Christmas in the same season as the earliest Christians, and the theme of light overcoming darkness has this seasonal touch to it. I wonder how Christians in the southern hemisphere experience the theme of darkness at Christmas time. Do they revisit the Christmas story in June when they are having their winter solstice?

Of course, we can experience darkness any time of the year. Our hearts can be heavy with grief or fear at any season. Illness, homelessness, betrayal and disappointment can come at any time. The fact of God coming in human form to live among us is one we recall every time we come together to worship, and anytime, anywhere in prayer and praise, not only at Christmas. Just as there is no season specific to our experience of darkness, there is no season when the light of Christ is not present. Some days the light of God may seem like a barely discernible ember not strong enough to offer warmth, but we are assured that it is here. We have the ability – and the responsibility – to bring together our embers (or our flames – whatever the strength of our faith today) so that we can build a strong source of light and provide warmth and care to each other.

Dear Lord, fan the spark of light that is within me so that I can share it with others who need some extra light and warmth in the darkness. Amen.

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

Saving the good stuff

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.’” Exodus 16:4

I was really happy with a devotional I had written and I thought I’d post it to my blog. Then I thought of the devotionals I had committed to writing for a publisher and I wondered about copyright issues. If I posted it here I might not be able to send it to the publisher, so maybe I should hold onto it and save it for that purpose. The problem with that, however, was that the essay wouldn’t be published for almost a year. Was I really going to wait that long to share it? Waiting really meant that I wasn’t confident that I’d have more good ideas to write about. A lack of confidence had me thinking about saving the “good stuff” in fear of a future scarcity. What if I couldn’t write more essays that I was happy with to send to the publisher?

Fortunately, my faith teaches me that God’s inspiration and grace are not finite resources. I do not have to live with a mindset of scarcity, but can live with a belief in God’s abundance. Like the Israelites who were given their daily manna and quails, I can give of myself each day and be confident that the well of inspiration will not run dry.

Are you saving your good stuff (love, talent, money, time), fearful that if you share it with others you may not get any more in the future? At Thanksgiving we are reminded to give thanks and share our abundance with others, but at other times of the year (or even the next week!) that mindset slips away. With repeated practice can we change our minds and our habits. We can do so by surrounding ourselves with stories of faith, remembering acts of bravery and good will carried out in the face of ill will, and giving thanks for the daily blessings and grace we receive.

Oscar Hammerstein wrote the following lyrics and they remind me to be generous in sharing: “A bell’s not a bell ’til you ring it – A song’s not a song ’til you sing it – Love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay – Love isn’t love ’til you give it away!”

Happy Give-thanksing to you!

Lord, give me the confidence to live with faith in your abundant grace and love. Amen.

Reminders All Around

“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’ And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.” Mark 1:9-12.

[Note: I wrote this post in August, then forgot about it in the swirl of the start of the school year. It resurfaced recently and I thought it appropriate for the beginning of Lent, when we remember Jesus’s journey in the wilderness. Jesus was accompanied by the Holy Spirit and so are we as we face our wilderness in its many shapes and sizes.]

While driving my son to college – his first year, my first kid – I passed beneath a road marked Watson Road. One of my best friend’s last name is Watson so seeing it made me smile, and then I teared up as I thought of all the friends and family I have in my life. This has been a teary time in my life as I’ve prepared to send Conor off to college, saying farewell to the younger part of his life and this part of my life as his parent. I’ve commiserated with friends who have taken their kids to college, and who I’ve encouraged as they’ve faced this milestone. I know I will be fine and he will be fine, and that this is what we’ve been planning for and working toward for years. Still, or maybe because of all that, it is an emotional time, and I have gotten weepy at reminders of loved ones, special events, and ordinary events.

Seeing my friend’s name on a sign along the road was a good reminder, albeit a moist-eyed one, of the love that surrounds me each and every day. If I look, I can find reminders all around (as I typed that, we passed beneath a road sign for Lover, PA. I am not making that up!!) How blessed I feel and how thankful I am for the presence of a loving God in my life and in the lives of my loved ones. It is a privilege to raise children and to see them grow. It is a joyful (and challenging, tiring, exhilarating) journey that we are privileged to take together. The reminders of God’s love and the love of others are great companions on my trip today and everyday.

Gracious God, watch over all of us who are taking sons and daughters to college this season. Bless all those who work at colleges and universities too. Amen.