Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Love is a Language

My love language is acts of service. I must be a minority because no one in my life speaks my language, fluently. For some reason, I am surrounded by people who need and love words.

[If you have never read Gary Chapman's theory on love languages, do it! Understanding the five languages - service, time, touch, words, and gifts - will provide incredible insight to your relationships]

Apart from God's radical love for us, the reason Ben and I have such a rich marriage is because we've learned to love each other in the way that is most meaningful to each of us. While Ben appreciates my mad house management skills, clean sheets on our bed is not the way to communicate my heart to him - even though that's how I want him to love me back. He clings to affirmation. He needs to hear that his muscles are huge and that his heart of compassion makes my heart flippity-flop. It's not natural for me to love him with words, but I try {like it's my job} because I don't ever want him to wonder.

This topic has been weaving its way through many of our conversations, lately, because the fight for attention in our house has wrestled itself to the surface in some pretty ugly ways (most of which end in a phone call from the school).

As I prayed for insight, it became pretty clear...we were not loving the older boys in ways they felt it best.

We were able to identify Ty and LJ's languages right away, because it's how they show love to us. Ty craves and often asks for one-on-one time, while LJ wants physical contact around the clock. I'm pretty sure he would be happiest if he could go through life holding my hand or riding my back like a baby chimp. Ty is an old soul who loves to sip hot cocoa in his robe, discussing the happenings of his day and asking all the questions that sparked his curiosity along the way. LJ wants to tackle any family member that will take it and give breath-sucking hugs. God help us when he notices girls.

Francisco is much more mysterious and because his heart is so good and gentle, he is the one most likely to get lost in the shadows. He's not loud or stubborn or confrontational and takes life in quiet stride. One night we just asked him...When do you feel the most loved? Is it when you come home and find an unexpected gift waiting? Reading little notes left in your lunch? Family movie nights?

He thought for a few minutes and said, "Maybe when I stay in the kitchen with dad, while he's doing dishes, and everyone else leaves?"

It was sort of a question statement, but revealed the sincerity of his heart.

Several days later, Francisco and I were working on a puzzle together. The kind you wish you had never started. 1500 pieces and for every two pieces you connect, there are twenty obstructing your success, without apology. Just as I was ready to quit for the night, very quietly - with no fanfare - Francisco said, "Mom, this is how I feel loved...sitting here, doing puzzles with you."

I smiled back and whispered it was the best part of my day.

Just like that, he handed me the keys to his heart. Nearly every day, this week, I made it a priority to sit down with him, even if only for a few minutes, and we cursed the puzzle together. He doesn't say much while we work, but every time he finds a match he whoops and hollers and calls for an air-five.

It is super hard to follow-through with intentions and easy to let all-the-things-we-should-be-doing burden our hearts. It's okay if we miss a night of reading or swap devotionals for dancing or ditch showers for star-gazing. It's all okay.

Our life is a circus. For real. And so much of our day is prescribed, but when I take the time to love my people in the languages they understand, I know I'm winning.

And they're winning, too, because they know they matter.

Friday, March 9, 2018

FF: Chili & Cornbread

We only have a handful of recipes that score high-fives all around the table and this is one of them. Seventeen years ago, I worked with a Hispanic woman who taught this know-nothing-newlywed how to wow my husband in the kitchen. I've never found a chili that rivaled hers - now ours.

FF: Crockpot Chili & Cornbread

2 cans of Rotel (We like original, but you can go spicy!)
1 can of black beans 
1 can of red beans
1 diced onion
1 diced green pepper
1 diced red pepper
1 lb cooked ground beef

Dump everything in your crock and cook it on low for 8-10 hours. I don't even drain the bean cans. Super easy.

30 minutes before serving, add:
1/2 bag of frozen corn
1 chili packet
Sprinkle in chili powder to your spice preference
Sprinkle pepper on top

Top with Chili Cheese Fritos, cheese, and sour cream!

1 box of Jiffy cornbread per instructions + 1 8oz can of creamed corn (so good you'll never eat it another way, again!) We like to make ours in a bread pan, but muffin pans work, too.

This is seriously a fan favorite!

Monday, March 5, 2018

You're Not Even My Real Mom

"I hate living here," he shouted through the bathroom door. "All you think about is YOU. And you're not even my REAL mom."

I knew this day would come. I remember talking about it with Rebekah, months after Ty was born. I was an emotional teenager once who didn't understand why my parents were bent on standing in my way or dousing my love-struck heart with buckets of ice water.

His words still felt like a punch to the heart and arrived a few years earlier than predicted.

He knows me better than any of his siblings. He's thoughtful and perceptive. He rubs my back when he feels tension and sits in the kitchen while I'm cooking, so I don't have to be alone.

He's almost nine and this year has brought more questions than any of the years before.

One notable change is his relationship with Rebekah.

For eight years, Ty loved Rebekah through me. We would talk and visit but his interaction with her was really an overflow from my friendship, not his. This year has been different. After too many low-battery sitter situations, we added a cell phone to our plan to act as our family house phone. Rebekah's number was one of six that we programmed in. Ty started his communication journey with misspelled text messages that ended with heart eyes and poop emojis, but over several months he grew into asking for regular phone call privileges.

At the dinner table, he'll fill us in on all the doings in Colorado and takes great pride in being the first to know. Here and there, I've had hits of sadness that have nothing to do with their conversations, but everything to do with his maturity and independence.

I can't help but think about how different our life would be if we had acted on our fear and distanced Rebekah from our hearts and life. I get teary thinking about it.

When Ty gets a perfect score on a math test and picks up the phone to share his news, my heart doubles in size. When he puts the phone back and tells me he's the luckiest kid on the planet for having two moms, I thank God for guiding us past boundaries.

It's not perfect, but nothing is.

Watching an eight year old process loss and long for people he doesn't see often enough is hard, but unloading eighteen years of pain in a single conversation would be harder.

Having multiple moms is messy business and we each have to work through the pain that passes through our part. While Ty grows into a story so much bigger than he is, there are going to be days of harsh words and accusing questions. Today, it was directed toward me, tomorrow it might be her.

We have to stand together as moms and remember where our confidence lies...certainly not within the capricious hearts of our self-serving children.

I have to fight failure monsters, knowing that many of Ty's outcries are fixed to time that's hard to give in a family of seven. Rebekah's monsters feed on guilt and make her wonder whether or not she deserves his attention at all.

However hairy it may be, we'll never stop wrestling for love. Love for God; love for each other; and love for a little boy that is still discovering both.

Love will win...in time.