Sticker Mongers and Love Hoaders

The other day I watched as my kids squandered used sheet after sheet of stickers. They covered entire pages of construction paper with haphazard sticker displays. Some of Braxton’s were even three dimensional (read he piled stickers on top of one another in an assembly line mentality without even looking at where on the paper the stickers landed). MY anxiety/hoarder mentality started to kick in big time. But before I could blurt out my usual “save some stickers for another time” or “wow, don’t you think you have enough stickers on there?” comments, a light bulb went off, the haze lifted and I saw my kids in a new light. (How is that for a nice string of clich├ęs?!) Instead of sticker mongers I saw diligent artists, pouring themselves into their work. Their masterpieces may be forgotten by rest time but in that moment they were focusing 100% of their energy, attention and passion into those sticker conglomeration. Isn’t that such a wonderful thing about kids? They pour themselves whole-heartedly into whatever they are doing (even if it only lasts a mili-second or half an episode of Dora)? But for those moments they are captivated by their task and give all of themselves to it? In this moment it was “stickering”. Who was I to crush their creativity? Who was I to determine they had used enough stickers? Who was I to make them think like an adult? Maybe I could learn something from them.
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(One moment it was stickering; then it was pirating…not the illegal kind.)
I am always trying to conserve myself, to protect myself. I am always worrying about the future, planning ahead, rationing, figuring, calculating, re-figuring, re-calculating. Why do I have such a hard time diving into something? Why do I have such a hard time giving all of myself to something? I don’t know if there is one simple answer. I am sure a lot of it has to do with any number of neurosis I have, (some may politely call them quirks). Some of it may be just sheer exhaustion- physical, mental, emotional deprivation. I may not be able to give all of myself to any one thing in any one moment because I am giving a little of myself to too many little things at any moment. That is probably a big part of it. But I think there is more. I am too cautious. I am too selfish and self-protective. I live in fear of running out, of failing. So I ration myself. I hold back.

As I looked at my kids and how they didn’t give one thought to how many stickers they were using, or whether or not they would run out of stickers, I felt so convicted, so humbled, but so held. It was as if God said to me, “go ahead. Empty yourself. Give of yourself to your family. Give it all away. Pour yourself out for Peter and the kids and the ones you love. I will fill you up. I will restore you and refill you.”

Isn’t it strange that by holding back, for fear of being empty, I end up feeling more empty? It makes sense that my selfishness would deplete my love and joy. So, I vowed then, and must continue to vow moment by moment, to empty myself for my family and allow God to refill me. It is not my responsibility to worry about whether “it” will run out or how I can store “it” for later. It is my responsibility to love, because “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13). I can’t pour myself into everything. I have to choose. I choose my family. I chose to give myself to them, without fear of not being taken care of myself. I know the one who holds me. I know the one who fills me. I am stepping out in faith and knowing He will not let me run dry. He has called me to this life. He has called me to this love, and I have been holding back.

I am angered by moms who leave their children behind (literally and figuratively) to pursue their dreams. Saying they are setting an example for their kids. I don’t want to be a martyr here, but I think the best example I can set for my kids is sacrificial love. (I am not talking about not taking care of myself. A mentally or emotionally unhealthy momma isn’t going to help anybody, and you better believe I love a girl’s night or solo trip to Target as much as the next girl!) But during the mundane of my days (and nights) I need to practice that sacrificial love. I fail at it daily…hourly even. So it is a good thing that I have a God who loves to forgive, that loves to offer guidance and grace. Because I need it, desperately.

As I look all over my fridge (and walls) at the collages of construction paper and stickers I am reminded: I need to stop being stingy with my family. I need to love with wreckless abandon. I need to pour myself out without a concern as to whether or not I will be empty. I need to lay down my life for the ones I love. In our children’s ministry at church we are talking about loving as Jesus did. Jesus poured himself out for people, and went to God to be replenished. I need to follow that example. It might be a better metaphor than the sticker mongers who are putting a pretty large dent into their collection these days. Unlike God’s grace those stickers might actually run out… So I have adopted this verse for myself when I feel like being a love hoarder.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love,
just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us,
an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
Ephesians 5:1-2

And I would be lying if I said I didn't secretly hope that practicing this verse might help me have a more fragrant aroma because Hayleigh told me the other day my shirt smelled "because I had been wearing it for 40 days. " That is one of those moments I decided not to "pour myself out" because what came out might not have been super friendly. So yeah... I am hoping offering myself makes me have a more fragrant aroma. Couldn't hurt.

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