Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I've been thinking quite a bit about the concept of love lately, it being almost Valentine's Day and all, and I've decided love encompasses a whole lot more than I usually give it credit for. When I was a little girl and my mom told me she loved me, I knew that meant she was glad to be my mom, that she would clean up my scraped knee and bandage it, and that she would hold me and comfort me if I had a nightmare. Pretty simplistic. But important just the same.

Then I grew up and fell in love. Although the romance and excitement was just as wonderful as I expected it to be, I couldn't imagine what real love would do to my life, how it would sanctify me and fulfill me and strengthen me until I married my husband.

Now I am a mother with four children I deeply love. And yes, that means I'm glad to be their mom. And yes, it means I wipe away their tears and bandage their owies. And yes, it means I'm always there in the night if they have a bad dream. But more than all that, it means I'm willing to give up fame, fortune (not that I'd have either of those things anyway), comfort, ease, and so much more to simply be their mom. It means putting up with tantrums, fighting, whining, teasing, name calling, mess making, and so on. It involves potty training, carpooling, teacher conferencing, soccer coaching, chore training; the list goes on and on. It's taxing, exhausting, overwhelming, frustrating, irritating, mind boggling, nerve racking, etc., etc.

But more important than all of that is this: It is love. It fills me with the most fulfilling, deep-in-the-core kind of love that changes my life forever because it changes me forever. I go to bed at night wondering how I'll ever get up in the morning and start the whole routine over again, but then my mind starts to review every exhausting aspect of my day, and I can't help but smile clear to my toes. That's when I realize that although I've never been so tired, I've also never been so happy.

A couple of days ago I left the house in a rush. I hollered goodbyes as I hurried out the door and got into the van. Just as I was shutting the door, I heard some little voices tell me to stop. I looked up to see my two youngest children waving at me from the porch in the garage. It was obvious they wanted me to come back. With an exasperated sigh, I exited the van and trudged back up the stairs in the garage so they could each give me a hug and kiss. My little four-year-old wrapped his arms around my neck and attempted to smother my cheek with a raspberry jam kiss. I immediately jerked back. After all, I had made great efforts to look good, and I was pretty sure a sticky, red face wouldn't help my appearance. But then I saw his excited grin as it lit up his whole face and I felt how much that little piece of wonderful loved me, and I couldn't help myself. I wrapped my arms just as tightly around him and allowed the sticky smooch. As I got back into the car I realized I hadn't been that happy all day long. I realized it was worth being a few minutes late. I realized how much I love raspberry jam kisses.

Two days later while subbing at the elementary school, I opened my lunch bag to find a note stuck there from my 11-year-old daughter, telling me she loved me and to have a great day. It meant so much, I found myself wiping away tears. And I realized how much her love means to me. I smiled as I thought of what a wonderful concept love notes are, and I decided to leave more of them.

On the phone later that day, my nine-year-old son called home to update me on his plans with his friends. As the conversation came to an end, he said, "Thanks, Mom. I sure love you." Words I've heard many times before, but what struck me this time was that I could hear his friends standing near in the background and knew they could hear his conversation. I forced my mind and heart to remember the moment, realizing (and hoping against it at the same time) that he's getting to the age where I may not hear those sincere words of gratitude and love from my son in that situation for very much longer. I wanted to be sure I appreciated them to the fullest at that moment in time.

My biggest fear as a mother is that I will go through all the motions of being a mom, my kids will grow up and move out, and I will realize I never appreciated each moment enough. The hard, frustrating, nitty-gritty moments and especially the sweet, delicious, fill my soul with inexpressible joy moments. What a waste that would be. What a waste to not appreciate the love in my life enough.

And so, this Valentine's Day, I just want to say how grateful I am for love--every kind and every aspect of it. Especially the love that can only be found within the family unit. That is the love that really matters, that makes life meaningful, that endures forever. That is the love that gets me through every day and that makes me want to be so much better. That is the love that can never be replaced.

Oh, how blessed I am to know such love!