The Lasting Impact of Attentive Love

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As I sat in our cozy cabin by the fireplace, my dad could tell I was troubled. Not one to hide my true feelings well, he could see it in my furrowed brow.  When I lost my usually sunny disposition and got this pensive look on my face, my parents would affectionately call me “Thunder Cloud.”   Well “Thunder Cloud” was here and she busy contemplating her options, alternating between thinking up excuses and working up courage for the day ahead.

It was my first time skiing, and at the young age of eight, I wasn’t too sure about the whole thing.  COLD, chapped lips and nose, frost-bitten fingers…what’s a girl to do?   It was pretty rough.  The day of ski lessons ahead looked daunting from my little girl perspective.

“Well, Jules,” my dad said, trying to encourage me, “Today is another learning day.  You have to give skiing about three days before it really becomes fun.  You’ve been at it two days.   So today is the day!  If you work hard, by the end of the day, you will be in really good shape!”

I sighed, gave him a half smile, and left to put on what felt like 17 layers of clothes.  At last, I pulled on my boots and gathered up my rather puffy ski jacket.  I looked very akin to The Michelin Man.  As I did my Frankenstein walk toward the door, my dad stopped me and tenderly turned me to face him.

He inspected my readiness. “Let’s see here…”  He helped me with my gloves, working out those tricky inside-out fingers.  He made sure I had a chap stick in my pocket and that it was zipped.  Lastly, he helped me put on that puffy ski jacket.   As he did, he said, “Julie, you were getting pretty good by the end of the day yesterday.  I know that if you work at it, you will be a great skier one day.” I couldn’t fight the grin. The thunder cloud was lifting.

Then came the moment that has somehow stayed with me all my life: my dad snapped up all of the snaps on my coat – and I mean, ALL the way up.  He snapped them clear up to my chin!  “All set?” he asked.  I nodded.

How very loved I felt!  How protected!  I waddled out the door, ready to conquer those ski slopes!

What a simple moment. And yet for me, it is embedded in my heart and mind as an important and life-giving interaction of love that I will always remember.  Here is what I learned:

  • I was needy and in a discouraged place.  With a little unselfishness, my Dad noticed.
  • My spirit needed a few words of encouragement.  With a little discernment, my Dad offered hope and perspective, “I know you can do it!”  “Give it one more day!”
  • I needed a little physical help and felt overwhelmed.  With a little time, my Dad helped me out.
  • I didn’t know it, but I simply needed a big dose of comfort and love.  With just that slight, extra measure of grace, my Dad snapped me up the whole way.

What a great lesson of love, simply meeting the needs of a child.

Do you ever wonder sometimes why God made us so needy?  He made us to need food and water and clothes.  He made us to need comfort and warmth and a little help (sometimes a lot of help!).  So many needs!  I could go on and on.  On the deepest level, He made us to need to be known and loved – first and foremost by Him, then by others.

God made us this way so that we would see how very dependent we need to be – on Him!  But secondly, I think it is so that we would learn how to tenderly love and care for each other. He knew that life is so much more rich and full as we carry the burdens of life together! (Gal 6:2) He knew that as we learn how to love Him and others well, we are fulfilling our highest purpose in life! 

I think that somehow we view being loving and kind as some kind of intangible aura that we just exude, when, really, it is much more practical than that.  The Lord Jesus was a wonderful example to us in this way.  Over and over again, he extended himself with love and time and physical help (Matt. 13:34).  He saw the needs around him and he responded (Mark 3:1-6).  He showed profound love and generosity throughout his life on earth (John 13:1-20).

Valentine’s Day is in just a couple of weeks…

As this celebration of love approaches and we think about our marriages, let us consider how well we are doing at this crucial task of loving.  A few questions to ask yourself as you consider your husband’s needs…

Are they physical? Work related?  Is he facing discouragement? Spiritual dryness?  Exploring these questions may take some effort, but finding the answers and acting on them, will be worth it!!

Choose to pour on the love this Valentine’s Day.  After your relationship with God, your relationship with your husband is your highest priority.  As you selflessly investing in your man I think you will find that, you too, will be blessed by the sweet echoes of love that follow!

  • Julie McGrath

Going Deeper – YOUR HOMEWORK!!

  • What does your husband need in order to feel loved?  If you stop and consider him, I’m sure you know what he likes. Is it time?  An evening set apart in the haven of your bedroom?  Would he be blessed if you clean out his car?
  • What words of love would offer life and hope to your man?  What does he need to hear from you today?  Where he is struggling? Have you told him lately how much you respect and admire him?
  • How can you help him?  What can you do to lighten his load?  What can you do to serve him in a way that says, “I love you and am deeply committed to your well-being.
  • How can you “go the extra mile” to demonstrate love and grace to your husband?  What would speak volumes of love to him?

New or Renew – Out with the old and In with the New??

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New or Renew

One of my favorite shows when I was a little girl was “The Price Is Right.”  I especially loved the excitement and mystery of what was behind those curtains.  Was it a set of lavender Samsonite luggage?  Perhaps a hot tub with super jet power?  Or was it the best one – the one that would get the big announcement, “It’s a brand new car!”  I can still hear those words as clear as day. After that, the music would kick in and I would cheer too, so happy for the lady who was jumping up and down, hugging Bob Barker.  I was sometimes so excited that I would actually tear up with joy, thinking, “You GO girl!”

What is it about things that are new?  I know I’m not the only one who loves the feel of all things new – a new car, a new coat of paint, even a new pair of socks.  We all crave it – something fresh, untouched, unspoiled, clean.  There is nothing wrong with that.  I believe God wired us with a good and wonderful desire for something new.

But, like all things, He has a plan for satisfying this desire – and we humans don’t always follow His way of satisfaction.   It’s amazing to me at how we can take a gift from God – like the yearning for something new – and twist it into something that is not helpful.  For example, instead of cleaning the car we have, we leave it in shambles and drive around, wondering why we are discontent.  Or, instead of sewing a new button on a pair of old pants or mending a torn sweater, we shove them in the back of the closet and eventually buy something new.

Does this sound familiar?  These are just a few examples of some ways that I think I have abused my stuff- neglecting the old and craving the new.

Why do we do this?  I think the first reason is because it is simply easier.  It’s much easier for me to set my sights on something new than to work a little harder and care for my old stuff.  The second is not all bad.  I think a lot of our desire for newness is because God gave us a hint of His glorious ability to design, create and appreciate beauty and freshness.  He made us to enjoy variety and all things new – new colors, new designs, new tastes and textures.

Isn’t this why we marvel when we discover a new hiking trail or the beauty of the incredible variety of flowers and herbs in a garden?  As I said, this is a very GOOD thing.

The problem is when we take this craving for newness and point our desires in the wrong direction.  You can see how this can be a problem when it comes to material things, but what about when we do it with the things that really matter – with the really important stuff of life?

I’d like to address two categories that I believe to be the most crucial when it comes to “newness”: your mind and your relationships.  God tells us in His word that He cares deeply about how we handle our desire for newness in these areas.

Imagine yourself at a fork in the road – one path is called “NEW” and one path is called “RENEW”.  I am not exaggerating when I say that how you handle your craving for newness, and which way you step at these critical crossroads many times throughout life – will make or break your life’s legacy.

It is clear.  God is a God of unchanging wisdom and faithfulness, and because of these character qualities, He wants you and me to choose the path “RENEW”.

In our minds, He wants renewal.  (Romans 12:2) What does this look like?  It means we allow our thoughts, our attitudes and our actions to be transformed by the study of His Word, His ways and His standards. I finally realized this through a series of humbling circumstances that brought me to my knees. I realized that God didn’t need for me to add to His infinite Truth with some of my own new tidbits of wisdom.  How foolish I was to be so “wise in my own eyes”. (Isaiah 5:21 – Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.)

I am so thankful for this shift in my thinking.  I know now that the unchanging, life-giving Truth found in the Bible is all I need. How we all need to renew our minds with God’s Wisdom – reading it, pondering it and applying it – every day!

In our relationships, he wants renewal. (1 Corinthians 13, Eph. 4:20-24) This looks like forgiveness, healing, and a thousand fresh starts.  It means being faithful to your husband and to your children – for life!  Instead of throwing up our hands and walking away from our marriage (as our culture says we have every right to do), it means hanging in there through a painfully difficult season.  At times this will require us to look beyond our feelings and circumstances and simply stay committed to the marriage itself, as a promise between you and God.

Our Lord is our example: “…and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;” – 1 Peter 2:23.  Let’s choose faithfulness, renewing the relationships God has placed us in, entrusting ourselves and the outcome to Him.

How good God is to know that we would often stand at the crossroads, overwhelmed with our need for “a new thing.”  He knows how desperately we continually need a fresh start, a clean slate, a new perspective.  Fortunately He is all about doing a new thing!  Isaiah 43:19 “See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” He wants to make a way through the desert places of our hearts and lives!

But do you and I trust Him to do this?  Do we really look to Him in humility, admit our desperate need and trust that He can make a way through our difficulties?  We need to believe deep in our soul, that down that often painful path of perseverance is CHARACTER…and that down that path further is HOPE – and that hope does not disappoint us! (Romans 5:3-5) 

Let’s love and trust God enough to believe Him – to believe that there is great reward when we choose His way – the way of renewal.

In our relationships, let us choose to renew the healthy and the broken relationships in our lives.  In our thinking, let us choose to renew the grid of our perspective with His unchanging Truth.

As we do, holding fast to His Word and the relationships we’ve been given, rather than throwing them out and looking for something new, we are loving and honoring God in a very tangible way!

– Julie McGrath

Romans 12:2 – “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” 

Isaiah 43:19 – “See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Ephesians 4:20-24 – “But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Going Deeper:

1.  What is your typical response when life brings you an unexpected struggle – to seek escape or to seek to grow through it?  Have you seen where either choice has proven to be helpful – or not helpful?

2.  What relationship in your life needs renewing?  Think of three ways to pray for the restoration and renewal of this hurting or broken relationship in your life.  What steps will you take today?