February 1, 2012

29 Days of Love ~ Intro Post

29 Days of Love - base writing

I Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

This challenge marks the 6-month point for those of you following the Year of Challenges.  I can’t believe we’ve actually hit the six-month mark – and I’ll be the first to admit to you that there have been a hundred few times I’ve wondered what in the world I was thinking taking this huge task on.  On the other hand, I can tell you that I’ve been stretched and forced to look at myself and my selfish tendencies in a way that I’ve never bothered to before.  If you’re just joining us, be sure to take a peek at the “Challenges” tab above to see where we’ve been with this project and what’s up and coming!

So Love.  Yes, February is the month for sweethearts – and I totally enjoy the colors, the sentiment, and the idea that we celebrate finding that special someone.  But let’s face it; this is a Hallmark Holiday if there ever was one.  And if you truly understand where this tradition emerged, you begin to wonder how we got it whittled down to a lovers only celebration. 

Visit HERE to read how the holiday originated and see just how far we’ve come!  Women, you just be happy you’re not getting slapped with blood drenched pieces of goat hide – that’s all I’m saying!

But one of things about the Month of Love that I think is often missing is the way we show love to our entire family.  Not just our significant other.  So this month, we’re going to focus on showing our love to our household.  And if you’re single – we’re going to show love to our extended family.    And I don’t need to tell you that “family” is a broad term indeed – many of us have people in our heart that are not related by blood, but whom we consider closer than any family we might have. You know who your family is… 

In November, we focused on showing thanks for our friends.  In December, we focused on our neighbors, our communities, and our world.  In January, we focused on ourselves and healthier living.  This month, we’re going to extend the true confessions of our heart to those we love the very most.

I remember when my father was very ill several years ago.  In a medically induced coma for over a month, we all sat around wishing we could talk to him again and tell him all the ways he touched our lives and how much we loved him.  Wished we could once again laugh about the good times and regale stories of our years together.  We wished we could tell him we appreciated him.  Honored him.  And forgave any shortcomings he may or may not have had. 

When he recovered, by God’s divine grace, we were so grateful – and overwhelmed by how much tragedy reminds us of what we seem so often to forget:  say what you want to say now.  Not tomorrow.  Not next week.  Show your love now.  Don’t save it, don’t hoard it, don’t sit on it.  Give it away…love your family and show them how much you love them.

There is a saying, and it’s somber but beautiful. Love and cherish those that God gave you, because some day He will need them back.

On that note, I’d like to introduce you to February’s 29 Days of Love:

This month we’re going to work out Corinthians 13:4-7 in our homes (and families) and try to come to an understanding of what Love is really supposed to be – not just romantic love, as Hallmark would like you to think – but as we’ve been created for and with those precious people God has placed in our lives to be our family.  Let’s review…

Love is patient

Love is Kind

It does not envy

It does not boast

It is not proud

It does not dishonor others

It is not self-seeking

It is not easily angered

It keeps no records of wrongs

Love does not rejoice in evil but rejoices with the truth

It always protects

Always trusts

Always hopes

Always perseveres

Extend your patience in situations with your spouse, children, or even extended family.  Times when you otherwise might be prone to frustration, allow yourself to take a breath and extend patience. 

Offer kindness, when you’re instinct might be otherwise.  Help your kids with a big school project, even if they didn’t ask.  Set aside 30 minutes and love on your spouse.  Take 20 minutes and reach out to your parents or siblings – especially if you live far away from each other.  There are so many kindnesses to name – I’ll save those for below.

Envy is tough – because I think we all do this.  But instead, focus on the ways you are proud of your family.  Tell them!

Don’t boast about your own accomplishments this month – instead, focus on the ways your family has impressed you.  Be humble.

Love is not proud.  Be the first to apologize.  I don’t care if it’s a decade old argument, or a difference of opinion about which coffee is better.  Don’t be full of pride – and find the first way to say you were wrong, or you’re sorry, or that you probably didn’t handle a certain situation very well.

Don’t throw your loved ones under a bus.  Don’t talk about them behind their backs.  Don’t present them poorly to others.  Don’t dishonor them.  Love them by building them up, speaking highly of them, focusing on their good traits, and praising their accomplishments.

Love isn’t self-seeking.  Don’t do things to get something in return.  This month is not about what you get back or what happens when you do X.  It’s about showing love without any expectations. 

If you’re anything like me – you have a temper.  (I pray you’re nothing like me in this way)  I get heated up pretty quickly and I tend to express myself through volume.  Enough said.  The point is, love is not easily angered.  Spend this month working on your temper.  Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.  Remember October’s Challenge? 

Are you a grudge holder?  If you are, I urge you to take this month to let that baggage go.  Find ways to express that release.  Whether you write a letter of forgiveness and burn it.  Deliver it.  Write your grievance on a large rock and throw it to the bottom of the lake (i.e. letting it GO) or take that loved one to coffee and apologize for holding on to that and not forgiving them.  Let it go.  Anger and a lack of forgiveness are the seeds of despair and they keep us held in one spot – unable to grow and move forward with those we love.  Let it go.  Forgive.  Don’t keep a record of wrongs

Do not rejoice in evil, but rejoice with the truth.  I had to look this one up.  There are many translations of the word evil in this text and some of them are iniquity, wrong-doing, unrighteousness, and injustice.  Bottom line – don’t take part in wrong-doing, but extend love in truth.  No, I don’t mean husbands should tell their wives they DO look fat in those skinny jeans.  God forbid.  Wives, please stop asking your husbands that land-mine question!  Rather, don’t love your family with false actions or words.  Let your yes be yes and your no be no.  Love them with truth and justice.  Be intentional in your love and don’t compromise

Love protects – and that ties in to truth, and not dishonoring those you love.  Protect them.  Care for them.  Comfort them.  If your instinct is a negative remark, hold it back and think of how you can protect your spouse or loved one in that situation, while still offering truth in love. 

Trust.  This is a tough one for me.  We’ve all had hurts in our lives and we’ve all been hurt by others at some point.  But we must really resist the urge to hurt those we love with our mistrust of their intentions.  Transparently speaking, Anton has told me many times over that I look at a situation and apply the worst possible motives to his actions.  Example: he coming home late from work and I’m upset and accusing him on the phone of always leaving late, and keeping us waiting, and that we’re not important.  {drama!} Three minutes later he walks in the door with flowers in his hand.  He was late because he was taking care of me.  Not mistreating me.  But I assigned the worst possible motive to his delay.  This is what I mean.  And we all have different levels of trust that have been broken – but this is really important as marriage success can often hinge on trust being central.  Same goes for your relationships with your kids and family.  Don’t assume the worst.  Offer your support and trust, and only put energy into situations where there have been clear violations.  Don’t hang your hat on “what if”.

Hope.  I like to look at hope as having a positive outlook.  A hope for good and for the future.  Tie into that encouragement, and you’ve got a lot of love you can show.  Love has hope.  Don’t give up if the relationship with your loved ones isn’t stellar.  Have hope and be willing to do the hard stuff above to make that happen.  Protect yourself from abusive people, and stay emotionally healthy – but have hope!  Pray for peace where needed, and extend grace where you can.  Always try to see the good in those you love.

Love perseveres.  It just does.  This is not rocket science.  This is love at its core.  It doesn’t give up.  It’s always there.  Nothing can separate you from it.  Can you imagine loving your children less?  I can’t imagine loving my children more!  Love perseveres under all kinds of stress and heartache, loss and doubt, good times and bad, hardship and brokenness…it never fails!  Love concurs all.  Nothing my children could ever do would make me love them less.  My love for them will stand true for the rest of my life on this earth.  That’s the nature of love.  God designed it to be so…and He showed us exactly what that looks like in His Word.

In addition to showing the Corinthians love, we can demonstrate tangible versions of our love in lots of fun and endearing and even helpful ways.  My next post will highlight lots of brainstorming ideas and fun ways to express yourself this month to those you love.  Be thinking of the Corinthians passage and ponder on the ways you can work on one, two, or all of the items above.  I know these aren’t easy – but where’s the challenge in easy? 

Let’s have some fun showing love for the next 29 Days!  Who’s with me?