Our little Noah is a very affectionate boy. One of my favorite moments each day is when he gets out of bed, rushes in to wherever I am and clings to me in a fierce hug. Oh how I relish this time.
But Noah doesn’t easily say, “I love you.” I say it to him frequently, because I really do love my child. There was a time when he simply wouldn’t say it at all. In response to me saying I loved him, he’d grab on to me and hold me tight. So one day I asked him if he loved me, and he said “yes” with such strength I know it to be true. So I gently coached him and said, “When you love someone, you need to tell them. It’s not just enough to hold them — people need to hear it.” And since that time, Noah has verbalized his love. It pops out when he is moved to say it, and is not just a response to me telling him I love him. Ahhh…what a great feeling it evokes in his mama!
This leads me to a topic I’ve been mulling over this week, part of which came from this great article in Harvard Business Review on why appreciation matters. One quote, in particular, stood out to me:
“Whatever else each of us derives from our work, there may be nothing more precious than the feeling that we truly matter — that we contribute unique value to the whole, and that we’re recognized for it.”
Isn’t that the truth?
And how much this crosses over into every aspect of our lives, not just work.
For example, my kids have certain chores they are assigned throughout the week. Most days, it’s a specific cleaning task and something related to dinner cleanup. Oh how they kvetch! What kills me is the phrase I’ve had thrown at me in the last couple weeks, “We do all the work around here, Mom. You don’t do anything.”
I remember that thought from when I was a kid. A different life, a different parent, and perhaps it was mostly true in my life. But as a parent to these kids, it broke my heart to hear it. They don’t connect “work” as me coming home from a tremendous day of work, and spending the next two solid hours getting their dinner fixed, helping them through homework, doing laundry, a lot of time helping with dinner cleanup, and on and on. Their perception is far from reality, yet I constantly judge myself on what people see vs. what I know I’m doing. Don’t we all?
Self-worth is hard to get right. We pile all kinds of junk on top of who we really are in an effort to be people we’re not. How do we fix this?
First, read the article I referenced above and apply it — put it into practice and reverse the trend of negativity toward others. Then, take the concept beyond appreciation and recognition — people need to know they’re loved, and loved for who they are rather than who you would want them to be. Just love people where they’re at.
I know a young man who is very different that his peers (okay, I know several of them…). But this young man was never welcomed into a social circle because he was slightly off. He was flat out ignored. I made time to get to know him and know his heart, and he is a gentle giant with some life struggles. I was able to meet him where he was at and love him for who he is, rather than my expectations of what I may have thought he should be. When this young man struggles with darkness, I think encounters like he and I have had keep him afloat — someone loves him and recognizes him for who he is.
In my own life, I can relate. I take great comfort in the love of my husband, who despite my [few? haha] imperfections, loves me with his whole heart. He accepts me the way I am. His love is something I cling to in those dark moments. Yet, while this is an amazing driver for me, it doesn’t compare to the amazing love and grace I unquestionably receive from God.
This leads me to step two: get over yourself. This has been a week of mass trial for me, and I have been brought to tears by the hardness of life. For a strong woman like me, that’s quite a feat. But I’ve allowed God (yes, allowed) to love me. I accept that He doesn’t just want me to love and adore him. Like a young child sometimes just needs a parent to cling to and wash away the world, I have found that comfort in God, who nourishes my soul, lifts me from the muck and mire, is strong enough to carry all my burdens and provides peace — IF I let Him do so.
It’s not just easy to turn stuff over to God. We’re hoarders. We want to cling to it and claim it as our own. We want to think our problems are the worst. But I have found, especially over the last several months, that it’s simply too much. Better yet, when I turn — throw — them onto God, He is faithful and does what He’s promised. He carries my burden, and He holds me in the strength of His embrace. Ahhh…to be loved unconditionally.
If you don’t know this blessing, this promise, let’s chat about it. Why would you want to carry a burden that you don’t have to?
Things of gratitude:
- God’s promises, which I have clung to and found to be true.
- The promise of spring budding — literally and figuratively — in my life.
- A simple pleasure after a terrible day: working late meant I had a $.80 cheaper toll.
- Watching my son play the cello in his first concert.
- Listening to my daughter enjoy her brother’s concert, and having it bring song to her lips.
- A babysitter so I can go out on a date with my husband. Just the two of us. Alone. First time in months!
- That precious morning hug from Noah, which I received in the middle of writing this blog.