School Can’t Start Soon Enough

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about The Sisterhood’s motto “No Matter What … Love.” So many pictures come to mind when you think about that pesky word Love. Often, it’s that desperate, perfect connection with another human being that we see in movies like The Notebook. Could there be a more perfect soul mate than Ryan Gosling? I mean, I really, truly believe my husband is the perfect soul mate for me, but still. It’s Ryan Gosling. I’m just sayin’.

My relationship with my husband doesn’t always look like what you might see in the movies, but when you look closely, you’ll see that it is so much better. It’s real and messy and beautiful and OURS. At our wedding, one of our readings was from my favorite chapter in the Bible on the meaning of love. Even if you have never stepped foot in a church, chances are you’ve heard this particular passage from the 2 Corinthians. It starts “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” It continues with about ten more short sentences about love, the last of which is “Love never fails.” You’ve probably heard these verses at multiple weddings, maybe even your own. But have you really thought about what they mean, not just in terms of how you love your spouse or significant other, but in terms of how you love everyone, every day?

I can’t even get past the first two phrases when I consider this broadened perspective. Of course I “love” my children, but how can anyone who hears “I’m hungry” 272,683 times a day be patient or kind? My little people torture me with those two dreaded words from the minute they wake up until the second their heads hit their pillows. My son even uttered it one time mid-bite. Really?? You are eating dinner. You are about to put a piece of food in your mouth. Do not tell me that you are hungry!

For everyone’s safety, I have delegated the parenting to the impatient, irritable version of myself, at least until school starts. Thankfully, that’s only a few days away now!

Snarly, Sarcastic, Snappy Melissa also fills in often at work, in my marriage, and when dealing with other people in general. I can’t lie – this alter ego amuses me. Sometimes I just want to let her take over completely! But then, I see the looks in my kids’ eyes when I snap at them. Or I experience the consequence of reacting at work with a biting quip, instead of from a place of patience and tolerance.

Truth be told, I want to love better.

So I’m taking a new look at these verses. Instead of just a beautiful poem to be recited over happy brides and grooms, I am going to try to transform these words into a playbook for all of my relationships. I am meditating on these words in a new way. When my son is still buckled in his car seat even though I’ve asked him to get out of the car five times, instead of yelling, I say to myself “Love is patient, Love is kind.” When I show up for Meet the Teacher at 8:20am, because I thought it was from 7:30-9:30am instead of 7:30-8:30am, and then, as I’m running from room to room, realize I have forgotten the cash that I need to pay for the extra set of pre-packaged school supplies available only to those irresponsible moms who forgot to order them in the Spring, I think of these words to remember to be patient and kind with myself. My mantra becomes “Love is patient, love is kind. Love nevers fails.”

I can’t believe the power in these words. Even though I’ve read them many times, I’m realizing through them on a deeper level what it means to rely on God. When we turn to God and accept Jesus as our savior, it means we never have to worry about failing again. Love never fails, which ultimately means that I never fail. I never fail, because Jesus already succeeded at the only contest that matters. Because He already conquered death and sin, NO MATTER WHAT I do, I cannot fail. Wow. That’s awesome.

Monday morning, as I’m getting the kids ready for the first day of school, I hope I can keep these words in the forefront of my mind. As many of you know, to say I’m not a morning person doesn’t even begin to cover it. There is no doubt Monday is going to be tough! But even if I don’t get the kids a perfectly balanced, healthy breakfast, even if we are running behind, even if nothing goes according to plan, Love is patient, Love is kind. With God’s help, I never fail.

Who knows, maybe next week, after we get past the first few days of earlier mornings, I’ll even move past the first line of the passage below and take on envy and pride!

“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 record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.”

2 Corinthians 13:4-8

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Humbled at McDonald’s in Canada

We are currently on vacation in my husband’s home country of Canada. And even though I’ve been here many times, there are still a few things that catch me off guard on every visit. For one thing, the Great Lakes are really, very great. How foolish I must have sounded when I asked my then-boyfriend if he had ever been to the beach, and then presumed to tell him it didn’t count because it wasn’t the ocean! The little island we went to on this trip had a sandy beach facing Lake Ontario. As I looked out at the endless water and watched the waves roll in, I was just as serene as I was last summer when we went to a “real” beach on the Gulf of Mexico.

This isn’t the only thing about Canada that humbles me. Every time I do the dishes here, I remember how most people do not have garbage disposals. It’s just not an appliance that has ever caught on here. People could afford them; they just don’t see the need. New homes don’t come with them installed. Apartments and townhouses don’t have them. But back when I was a know-it-all, twenty-something-year-old who discounted her boyfriend’s beach experiences, I also refused to accept the reality about garbage disposals and Canada. Surely, there was some sort of mistake, I thought. Maybe I just needed to say the right word – it’s “garburator” in Canadian, not “garbage disposal,” after all. And so, when I moved to Canada, I insisted we call every apartment complex remotely close to Toronto and ask if they had a unit for rent with a garburator. As you probably guessed, the answer was always the same. Flushing my cereal down the toilet and scraping plates into the trash weren’t totally new to me. I’d been to many countries before and even lived in France. I just had it in my head that the differences between Canada and the United States were not quite as big as this. As it turns out, the differences between our two incredible countries aren’t so big. Shockingly, a garbage disposal really isn’t an absolute necessity.

I’m not sure how something so small ended up becoming a catalyst for me to open my mind to new things and different ideas more readily, but it did. For years, if someone said something to me that seemed odd or different or unthinkable, I would just remember that life without a garbage disposal used to seem odd and different and unthinkable. Then I lived without one for three years and realized it wasn’t that big of a deal. My husband used to think it odd and different and unreasonable to insist, like I had, that a garburator hold the same level of importance as a refrigerator. Now that he has lived in the US for twelve years, he finds it odd and different and unreasonable for someone to live without one.

The truth is most things are only odd or different or unreasonable when they are foreign. Once you get closer, you see a bigger picture that almost always changes your perspective. You realize you’ve been looking through a mirror like the one on your car that says “objects are closer than they appear.” Life in Canada seemed so familiar I just assumed I fully understood it, but the truth is I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought. We make judgments all the time based on a warped view of the world. Things, or people, or races, or religions, seem just familiar enough that we think we can judge the differences we seem to perceive. But when we stop to listen to each other and imagine what it would be like to walk a mile in each other’s shoes, we see that so much lies beneath the surface.

Back to our visit in Canada, as always, we went to McDonald’s for lunch one day. Before we went, we talked about how McDonald’s is different in other countries. I didn’t want the kids to overreact when they saw, for example, that in Canada, apple slices still have skin on them. But just when I was patting myself on the back for how enlightened and open-minded I am, five dreaded words betrayed me. They just spilled out before I could do anything about it. It was like I was in slow motion. I recognized what was about to happen but could do nothing to stop it. I meant to ask the cashier what came with a happy meal. Or what kind of kids’ meals they had. Or if the happy meals came with a burger, fries and a side like in the United States. But, no, instead, I said “Do you have normal happy meals?”

I was embarrassed before I finished the question. How could I have asked if the happy meals were “normal”!? I cannot identify any part of me that thinks in any way that anything is less “normal” in Canada than in the US, and yet, those words came out of my mouth! Of course, I had to make it worse by explaining that we were from the States. As if the sweet teenager taking our order hadn’t figured that out. What a great way for me to reinforce stereotypes that Canadians have of Americans! Of course I would think our way of doing things is “normal” and everyone else’s is “abnormal,” right?

After I got over my embarrassment, I laughed and lightened up and realized (again) that we are all just flawed human beings. The best thing we can do is listen to each other respectfully and then cut each other some slack. I sure hope that cashier does not honestly think I am so arrogant that I really consider only my experience to be “normal.” I hope she gave me the benefit of the doubt and realized I was just thinking about what is “normal” to me and didn’t mean the question the way it sounded.

As a society, we are so often and easily offended by innocent words that are not meant to injure but just represent a different perspective.

Words matter.
But more than words, intentions matter.
And more than anything, grace matters.

We have to extend each other grace to blunder and bludgeon through each day, because we also must rely on grace. We are all imperfect creatures in need of God’s perfect love and the grace that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Because of this amazing grace, I am often humbled but never humiliated. Even as an American in Canada!

(As it turns out, in Trenton, Ontario, a “normal” happy meal comes with only one side. You get fries or apples, but not both. Also, the fountain drink cup is significantly smaller than the one you would get if you were to order a “normal” happy meal from a McDonald’s in Plano, Texas.)