Today was the first day of my personal "Fruit of the Spirit" challenge. Of course I started with "love" being the first characteristic I was going to be intentional with, and quickly into my day I realized that when the Lord said, "And the greatest of these is love," He really meant it. Love, in all it's glorious splendor is a HUGE undertaking! I don't think I quite understood the magnitude of this last night and if I had I may have decided to do another challenge like, I don't know, brushing my teeth before 11 AM. Just kidding, sort of.
Anyway, as I was saying the "Fruit of the Spirit" passage over and over again in my mind, I began to wonder, why didn't God write it, "and the Fruit of the Spirit is joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control which can all be summed up by love?" I mean, aren't all these things what love really is? So, I was drawn to the "Love chapter" in the Bible:
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (The Message)
And so, with this in mind, I began my day...at FIVE AM! Did God seriously think that I was going to be a loving mommy at five in the morning when my son walked into my room to let me know it was morning time and I needed to wake up? I'm not so sure He did...so I promptly marched my son back to his room, ordered him to stay there until the sun woke up and went back into bed for another wonderful hour and a half of sleep. So, then I began my day again...at six thirty, lovingly.
Wanting to be purposeful today in my words, actions and reactions I was given many opportunities to choose the higher road. I'm pretty sure my two year old Lily intentionally spilled, poured and knocked over as many things as she possibly could because she knew I was challenging myself today. She spilled her water - of course. She knocked over a bowl of cereal - typical. She poured yogurt on the table - and at that point I realized it may be quite a challenging day!!!
Actually though, my day was fabulous. As I spoke today, I used words that empowered my children. I encouraged my children. I didn't fly off the handle when things went wrong. Instead of getting frustrated and using an angry tone when my kids disobeyed, I spoke quietly and used a disappointed tone. But amazingly, my kids didn't disobey much today. They didn't fight much today. They didn't argue hardly at all with me. Since I wasn't spending my day frustrated and grumpy, but intentionally being loving I had more energy to play and be silly.
As magnificent as this sounds, it wasn't easy for me. I realized today that I have become used to REACTING to the events of my day instead of DIRECTING the events of my day. I have been on defense mode for so long, and today, simply with my change of heart, I was on the offense for the first time. My kids were great players today, but there was one point in particular this afternoon, that I thought my kids would take the ball and I would be on defense yet again.
We went to the grocery store which is always an adventure simply because all my children are still too young to trust to walk around, and yet there are too many to fit in the cart with more than two groceries. However there was a great deal on detergent and I couldn't pass it up. So, my kids did surprisingly well in the store. I was very impressed. To be honest, I love those times when my kids are acting like angels and older people will look at my cart and say to me, "Wow, what a wonderful job you are doing." And it actually happened today! And then we got to the parking lot. By this point, my two oldest were walking because I had too much detergent for them to sit in the cart. They began running around the car like two wild monkeys, throwing themselves on the ground playing some game they had just made up and pretty much forgetting all the rules I have taught them about parking lot behavior. My two year old decided to get out of her car seat and jump into the driver seat and start turning on and off my headlights and honking my horn. And of course, there was an older woman putting her groceries in her car right next to me, intentionally going slower so she could watch my response to my little monkeys' behavior. This was my moment. I quieted my voice and spoke sternly and said, "We don't act like this in a parking lot. We know this. I bought gum for my children who were behaving wonderfully in the store. However, I will not give kids any gum who are behaving badly in the parking lot." That was it. I wasn't even really looking at any of them when I said it either. But my children all stopped and looked at me as if they were wondering why in the world I wasn't screaming at them. I shrugged my shoulders and started singing the ABC's. They looked at each other and all quickly got into their seats. I started passing out the gum and both of the twins looked at me and said, "Mommy, I love you."
It is amazing how we can direct our children's behavior by our behavior. I spoke quietly today instead of trying to be heard over all their voices, and they spoke quieter. I used please and thank you's with my kids today instead of barking orders, and they used their manners today with no reminding.
I'm so excited about tomorrow as I continue my focus on the love part of the Fruits of the Spirit. Tomorrow, as I purposefully live my day in a spirit of love, I am going to focus on the parts in the Love Chapter about not flying off the handle and always looking for the best. Encouragement is such a huge part of love, I can't wait to see what an encouraging house will translate into tomorrow!
If you are doing this challenge with me, I hope your day was as wonderful as mine!