Love is the Foundation

OLOVef all the things we want our kids to know before we send them out into the world, there is one we feel is at the forefront. That is – we want our kids to know how much they are loved by God and by us, unconditionally.

We are a family that says, “I love you” and we show it through hugs and affection all the time. We have found it’s easiest for our kids to feel loved and valued by us when things are going well and they are making great decisions. It’s when they mess up that we feel it’s especially important to reiterate our devotion to them, even as we talk through the situation and consequences.  We’ve found a way to verbalize this with a phrase we’ve had to use many times in tough moments. That phrase is, “I love you as much right now as I loved you before you made this poor decision.” That right away reminds them they cannot earn our love and they cannot lose it, based upon what they do.

The first time I remember coming up with this phrase was when my son Ethan was in second grade. He came home one afternoon with a note from his teacher saying he had called a little girl in his class a name, and not just any girl… but a girl who, as it turned out – lived two doors down and attends our church. For a hot second, I thought, “Geez, why couldn’t it be someone who doesn’t go to our church? This is embarrassing… we work at church and are heavily involved there…” Oh my, the places our minds can go in moments like that! Our kids keep us humble, that’s for sure!

As I asked more questions, he explained he didn’t think he was the only one at fault. She had pushed his buttons until he reacted. Regardless of who started it, I explained that the second he called her a name he was wrong and would need to make amends. It was at that moment in the conversations that the now often used phrase was birthed. I said, “I love you as much right now as I loved you before you made this poor decision, and because I love you I am going to walk with you to her house so you can apologize and ask her forgiveness.” He was beside himself. He said, “What if her whole family comes to the door and I have to apologize in front of her mom, dad, and brother!?”  I put my arm around him and said, “If that’s what we have to do then that’s what we’ll do. I’ll be by your side the whole time; you won’t have to do this alone.”

So we walked over to her house. Her whole family did come to the door and Ethan apologized. They were gracious and forgiving and he scored point’s big time by making amends.

That day, Ethan learned a few valuable lessons. The first, He learned he is loved no matter what, just as it says in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” He also learned he never has to walk through anything alone. He saw God’s love in action through me – just as I stood by his side, God stands by our side when we make poor decisions and have to walk through the tough consequences of our actions. In love, He never abandons us in those moments, but sees us through. Ethan also had an opportunity through the experience to walk out our family mission statement, which is, “We, the O’Donnell’s, live to unveil God’s love and glorify Him in our everyday lives.” In that moment, he unveiled God’s love by making amends. He glorified Him by having the character to apologize when he messed up and by valuing the little girl’s feelings.

Just as Romans 8 says above, there is truly nothing that can ever separate us from the love of God. If you aren’t aware of just how much God loves you, I pray this story will give you a greater glimpse of how very special you are to your Heavenly Father! He loves you as much right now as the day you were born. You are special to Him, loved unconditionally.

Love,

Amy O’Donnell

P.S. Stay tuned for my next blog post which will cover the second key thing we feel our kids need to know to be successful in life.

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Unforced Rhythms

Have you ever picked up something only to find that it is too hard to carry? I do every time I think I am strong enough to carry one of my kids up to bed. All of them, my youngest included, are too old, too big, and too tall for me to be able to handle in any graceful way. In the recent times I have had to carry them, I may have gotten them upstairs & into bed, but I was beat… worn out, breathing heavy and weary by the time I was done. I accomplished the task, but at a cost to me. Whereas David seems able to just whisk them up and walk smoothly up the stairs, place them in their beds, and come down effortlessly. You can probably look at me and tell I was not designed to carry great weight over long distances. I am not strong enough!

 Some of us can relate to seasons where we have lived our lives that way – trying to carry loads we weren’t made to carry. Maybe we buckled under the weight of trying to measure up; to be successful in the eyes of the world. Or perhaps we bent under the strain of our past hurts and injustices, because they became so much a part of our identity, we didn’t know who we would be with out them. Or maybe we toed the line; in an effort to be a “Super Christian”.

 Jesus knew we would struggle in these areas, and He wants more for our lives. He wants us to learn from his example of what a successful life living for God looks like. In Matthew 11:28 (MSG), He said, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” 

Come… Walk with me… Work with me… Watch how I do it…  These are all action oriented statements. Christ wants us to lead active, productive lives, but it’s action from a place of resting in Him, fueled by His grace to live a life that brings glory to God. When we surrender our lives to God in this way, He is able to accomplish more of eternal value in us and through us than we could ever do on our own; our lives are no longer about keeping score or a test of how much we can carry or accomplish in our strength, but instead our lives become a testimony of how much he can accomplish through us as we rest in Him.

 My prayer for you today is that you will lay down anything you are carrying that is ill-fitting, anything that is causing you to stay trapped in the past, or is keeping you from being able to surrender to the life God wants you to live. And in exchange for what you lay at the feet of Jesus, I pray you will embrace the life, blessings and all things he has in store for you… serving, loving, and leaving a Godly legacy. There is no greater adventure, no greater sense of fulfillment than that which comes by living a surrendered, God-fueled life!

 Copyright © 2011 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved

Press In

This past Wednesday evening, during our monthly Communion Service, Kylie took an opportunity to crawl into my lap. She turned her head toward me and started resting it on my shoulder, then she moved it back and forth while snuggling in; as if she just wanted to press in and absorb every ounce of love I could give her in that moment. It was precious! A little love snuggle I will remember for years to come.

I believe it’s natural for us to think of having these kinds of responses from our children, but in the book of John, we can read about a similar tender moment between John, one of the original twelve apostles, and Jesus. John 13:23 says, “One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved dearly, was reclining against him, his head on his shoulder.”

In those days, it was customary to sit two to three on a couch, each leaning on their left elbow, while sharing a meal; and it was easy to rest on the shoulder or arm of the person to the side if it was a close relationship. John, sharing a seat next to Jesus, obviously felt comfortable pressing in and enjoying a tender moment. I believe it’s because he knew how loved he was by Jesus. It seems He lived His life from that place, even referring to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved as we saw in the verse above.

We can learn a lot from John. Life has a lot more joy when we live with a deep awareness of how loved and accepted we are by Jesus, and of the tender intimacy that is available in our relationship with Him. We are the disciples whom Jesus loves. I am. You are. And like John we all have a place of honor close to our savior, just as it says in Ephesians 2:6, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” We are all have access to his ear to share our thoughts, needs and prayers; His strength to lean on. We can press in and enjoy the intimacy of being in a love relationship with Him.

When we live our lives knowing how loved we are, it truly puts everything else into the right perspective. Our God who loves us as much as he does, wants what is best for us in every way. We can trust Him; we can enjoy intimacy with Him. He hears our cries, and heals our hurts. He promises to work all things out for good. My prayer for you today is that you will press in to Him, lean on His strength and live aware of how loved you are!

 

Lessons in Honor II

 Three of our four kids were born with in days of each other, in different years. This has brought to pass a special week of celebration in our home, which we lovingly call birthday week, and we just completed it this past Thursday. During this week, we are even more focused around celebrating and honoring the special birthday boys and Kylie. 

We value traditions in our home, and one special birthday tradition we hold to, is having a family meal and allowing the birthday person to select the dinner choice on their special day. This year we built on that tradition, by asking each person around the table to share what they like most about, or to share a special memory of, the one being celebrated. 

 I was surprised to find that for some relationships, this was easy; but for others it was a little harder, and so we all waited while each came up with something, and in time – all were able to share at least one thing they really enjoyed. For our special birthday peeps, this was a major hit… Some were surprised to find out what the others liked about them; they laughed at the stories being shared, and as we went around the table – smiles got bigger, they sat a little taller, and really filled up with the love that was being poured out. It was for sure, a lesson in honor for them – how to give it and what it feels like to receive it. It was beautiful!

 This new addition to our birthday tradition was a reminder to me, that with those we love and interact with regularly we always have the choice to focus on the negative; but when we choose the opposite and focus on and celebrate the positive – we are demonstrating unconditional love and acceptance; which goes a long way in building and strengthening those relationships. Also, when we honor one another in this way, we are imitating Christ and loving the way he desires for us to show love, just as it says in John 13:34-35[Amp], “I give you a new commandment: that you should love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another.  By this shall all [men] know that you are My disciples, if you love one another [if you keep on showing love among yourselves.” The apostle Paul also touched on love and honor in Romans 12:10 (NLT), where he wrote, “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”

 Love like this flows naturally out of hearts in tune with how much we are loved by God. If you are struggling today with knowing how much God loves you, I pray you have a new revelation of his love and grace. And if you are struggling with love, honor or forgiveness in any of the relationships in your family, I want to remind you that nothing is beyond God’s ability to heal, restore and repair… we serve a mighty, loving, gracious God! 

 Copyright © 2011 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved