Thursday, January 28, 2010

you can't choose love

As I have searched my heart over the last year and a half, the Lord has revealed to me my faulty thinking in many areas. Last night, through a conversation with a good friend, I reconsidered a phrase I've heard many times, especially among Christians in reference to marriage: 'love is a choice.'

Is it? I realized that this sentiment is possibly at the root of some of my misrenderings of what marriage looks like. 'Love is a choice' sounds genuinely burdensome, albeit [self-righteously] noble. If 'love is a choice,' I will consider that I always choose love in spite of the faults of the other person (namely, my husband). Consequently, when I'm not feeling the love, I can easily pass it off, because, after all, 'love is a choice,' not a feeling.

I don't think I believe this line of reasoning anymore. Love is, by definition, an emotion; it is affection, tenderness, admiration, benevolence, attachment, devotion, desire, adoration (Webster). However, we all know that, while love is an emotion--a feeling--it can only be expressed through actions and behaviors. The Bible defines love as patient and kind, neither jealous nor boastful nor proud (1 Corinthians 13:4).

How can we possibly achieve that kind of love for others? 'Choosing' love means that we dictate our actions and our speech to be of the language of love. But in marriage, don't you always know your spouse's heart? For a long time, I 'chose' to love Jarrad. I paid him lip service because I knew in my head that he's a good man. But he knew my heart, and, in my heart, I was forever disappointed in him. I was wrong, and I knew I was wrong. My 'choice' to love him really meant that I pretended to believe what I knew in my head to be true, in spite of the fact that my heart didn't believe it. And I failed. I failed miserably at loving my husband.

When a teacher of the law asked Jesus, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" Jesus laid out two basic instructions: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength," and "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:28-31). When I realized the terrible mistake I was making by looking to Jarrad as my provider (instead of looking to God), I ceased focusing my energies on 'choosing' to love Jarrad. All of my efforts to 'choose' love had failed and left me wanting. All at once, I stopped idolizing Jarrad (treating him as my god), and I began following the first great commandment--to love the Lord my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind and with all my strength. And all at once, I gained a natural, unstoppable, overwhelming love for my husband that was unlike any love I had 'chosen' in the past.

When we say "love is a choice," I think we are cheating ourselves out of the most wonderful, natural, God-given feeling that we are meant to have for one another. Of course, there are times when I forget myself, and I forget who God is, and I forget to love Him. That's when I fall, and that's when I lose that warm and fuzzy feeling (I'm thinking particularly about my husband). What, then? I do try, in my own strength, to 'choose' love. I hope, though, that in the future, I will catch myself 'choosing' to love and realize that it means I am far from real love. And with that, I hope I will immediately fall to my knees to return to the Giver of perfect love.

Friday, January 15, 2010

...a year later

I've been meaning to write this post for awhile, mostly for bench-marking purposes. Carly turned one on November 4th...yes, more than two months ago (but I think I've only posted once since then because of all the Christmas crafting going on around here!). ANYway...

Carly turned one. Oh, sweet Carly. I was so confident when we found out we were having another baby. I've heard, and now repeat, that the transition from one kid to two is a killer. I've heard it's the toughest transition, but we'll be seeing about that...

The first six months of Carly's life were rough. Of course, it could have been significantly worse than it was, but my sweet, smiley baby was sick. A LOT. She had breathing issues. I was never sure if she had a cold or if she was contagious. I hated that she had been prescribed antibiotics three times for ear infections, and that the pediatrician was encouraging us to try awful asthma meds. I never took her anywhere because I was afraid she'd get the flu. We never had friends over because I was afraid she would infect their kids with whatever it was. I was lonely. And blue. Maybe even depressed.

We finally visited the lung specialist when Carly was 6.5 months old. He gave us one word: Tracheomalacia. I took it home and read, and all the pieces made sense. We started her on acid reflux medication (acid reflux is a common problem associated with Tracheomalacia), which cleared up her congestion (congestion can be the manifestation of acid reflux...weird) and kept her from getting any more ear infections.

The bottom line is that I found out my baby wasn't really sick after all. What she had was a minor birth defect that will correct itself. PHEW! I began to cheer up. I still had my moments/days/weeks of not feeling great. I was run down with a baby who didn't sleep through the night. I know I know, I could have let her "cry it out." But I am not of the school of thought that says that sleeping through the night is the beginning and end of parenting, and so I did not do what I did not want to do. Carly never nursed well during the day--perhaps the Tracheomalacia, maybe the acid reflux. Whatever the reason, she nursed WELL at night, and I was always sure she was getting plenty of nourishment as long as she was waking up. As she got older, I cherished those wee-hours feedings, because Carly is an on-the-move girl, and there were many days when those were my only snuggles from her. I loved it. But I was tired.

When she was 11 months old, eating well, and pleasantly plump, I finally decided to let her cry. She's of the determined sort, and cry she did. Although she has always been a dream to put down (she basically dives into her crib and waves me out of the room), she would wake up at 10pm, 11pm, midnight--whenever--and cry. For hours. My options were to spend 5 minutes nursing her and then put her back in her crib, or listen to her cry. For hours. At 11 1/2 months, I held strong...until 4:00am. And so, she developed a 4am waking habit. I didn't care, until last month. I realized that if I ever wanted to spend the night away from this one, I'd need to do away with this 4am thing (and it wasn't helping much anymore, since she'd often go back to sleep only until 5:45 or 6). So for four or five nights in a row, we listened to her cry/fuss/whine/whimper from sometime in the 3:00am hour until morning. But then she was over it! And so I was once again affirmed, that nothing I, the mommy, choose to do in the first year of Baby's life can't be corrected in a few days of re-training. Although I was tired for...over a year...I look back and do NOT regret nor begrudge the sleep I lost. I took care of my baby the way my instincts dictated, I had fun doing it, and she thrived.

Wow, I'm really rambling...

Where was I? ...the second six month of Carly's life...I felt much better, but I was still tired. I had moments of pure energy and excitement, contrasted with moments of anxiety, loneliness, and sadness. But, by and by, the good days outnumbered the bad, and I was happy to have weathered the storm and gained so much new insight from the Lord.

And then Carly turned one.

And then I was normal.

I felt normal. I acted normal. Things didn't look bleak. I felt blessed and encouraged. I felt empowered and energized. And, within days of Carly's birthday, I remarked to Jarrad that I'm pretty sure I'll look back and say, "And then, it took me a full year to recover from my second-born."

I'm pregnant again, if you haven't heard. I'm just over 8 weeks along, and feeling tired, but fine otherwise. Rachel is at a frustrating age, and I can definitely tell I have a shorter fuse. My days of normalcy were short-lived, I suppose, but I'm hopeful they will return quickly after we meet this sweet one. Maybe this one will sleep through the night a little sooner. Hm...I kinda hope not...