How do we ‘Live Out Love’? By showing love through action. If you’re a fan of stories – like I am – then you’re going to love Lovisa Hammock’s post today.
Showing Love Through Action
by Lovisa Hammock
I didn’t have a perfect childhood. I don’t think I know anyone who did, really. My parents were imperfect as I and my husband are imperfect. They made mistakes, big and small. They have both apologized to me and my three older brothers separately for things that they felt mattered the most- their biggest failures, their deepest regrets, the things that they feel somehow makes us love them less. It’s odd, because while I remember the things that they talk about, I remember things differently than they do.
I had three older brothers and, while I have a sister, I didn’t even meet her until I was an adult, pregnant with my first child. I grew up as some strange mix of tom-boy and girly-girl. I wore tiaras and climbed trees, tacked boys and then skipping off to play My Little Ponies. My brothers never wanted to play with my girly artifacts so I was usually left to my baby dolls and Barbies without an actual playmate.
The Tea Party
The Tea Set
One year I got a little plastic tea set for my birthday. It was perfect! I would carefully arrange pink and purple floral place-settings, cups carefully resting on saucers, spoons ready next to them in case someone preferred sugar in their tea. I set the tea pot on my tray with the sugar jar and creamer and played by myself, imagining that I was a nineteenth century young lady of noble descent. But I had no guests.
I begged my brothers to play, but they abhorred the very hue of my precious cups and saucers and turned their noses up at my careful place settings. It was far too feminine for their tastes and they would hear nothing more about it.
My mom knew how much I wanted to have a real tea party with people. She knew that they boys would never touch any of my girly toys or appreciate the red lipstick she would put on me for special times. She knew that they teased me to no end when I wanted to watch a “girly” show and that they occasionally beheaded my Barbies. She knew that they would never acquiesce to attending “high tea” with me.
Finding Guests for the Party
So she baked. She made a nice big pan of her applesauce bars with oatmeal, letting the house fill up with their tantalizing aroma- mmmmm- cinnamon and apples! It was our favorite treat! While they were in the oven she made real kool-aid! Kool-aid was usually reserved for birthdays in our home, so it’s a wonder she even had any, but there it was.
By the time the bars were cooled enough to cut, my brothers and I were practically starving for a taste! She then gathered all of my place settings and rearranged them on my tea tray. She put an apple bar on each saucer and filled the tiny cups with the liquid joy that was kool-aid. Then, she informed my brothers that these were for the attendees of my tea party- invited guests only. If they wanted seconds, they would need to politely ask their hostess: me.
I finally got my tea party. My brothers turned out to be charming guests. They complimented the cook, requested several refills of “tea” (they had to call it that) and made me laugh with silly jokes while they ate as many applesauce bars as my mom would let us have- which wound up being quite a few because they were being such wonderful guests.
Seeing Love in Actions
That was kind of a big gesture on my mom’s part. I mean, it was simple, but pretty big in retrospect. She went into the kitchen and went through the hassle of mixing and baking so that I could have my tea party. But love doesn’t always look like that.
Sometimes it’s not in the “big” elaborate gestures, but the small and simple ones that we see love. My dad, for example, worked a lot. For many years he had a job that required him to be gone for days and sometimes weeks at a time. But when he was there he did little special things, like the game we played with my sleeping bag.
I had a My Little Ponies sleeping bag- the front was covered in rows of beautifully colored ponies flying, dancing, and playing with the tiny flowers and hearts that surrounded them like confetti. I slept in it every night. When he was home, dad would tuck me in at night and count the ponies from my chin to my toes to “see if I had grown”. I would climb inside, pull it snug to my chin, and then stretch my legs as far as I could while holding my toes in a “tippy-toe” position as I hoped for just one extra pony.
Sometimes he would reward my efforts by declaring that I had grown by a “half a pony”. Sometimes he would tickle me as he went, causing me to curl up so that he could declare that I was getting shorter and make me squeal in indignation and delight. His efforts costed him maybe two to five extra minutes a night, but gave me a life time of memories to smile over.
The Things Kids Remember
Neither of my parents knew that I would remember these things as an adult. In fact, they were both surprised when I brought them up. My mom had actually all but forgotten the tea party and my dad believed I was too young to have remembered being tucked in. They didn’t do them to be remembered. They did them because they loved me.
That’s what I remember from my less-than-perfect childhood: I was loved. My parents are humans and they’re flawed. They’re not perfect and they never will be. But they loved me. So that’s where I see things differently than they do- that’s why I remember the same things differently: while they look back and see their biggest failures, I look back and see their love.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
So I guess this is where the advice comes in: Don’t strive for perfection. Perfection is unattainable. Love, on the other hand, is achievable. Strive for love. Not just the feeling, but the action. Otherwise you’ll reach my parents’ age and regret rather than cherish.
Do the little things, regardless of whether you think they’ll be remembered. Doing something so that you’ll be remembered as “good” is doing something out of a love for yourself. Do things so that your children will remember that they’re loved. I don’t want my kids to think I’m perfect. If they think I’m perfect they’ll just copy my mistakes. I fail. Often. Right in front of them. But when they look back, I want them to remember love.
Even if they can’t name specific events as I can, I want them to at least have the feeling that only a lifetime of love can give you. As a child I was unable to label what my parents were doing. I only had the feeling behind it. And I honestly have fonder memories of the simpler things we did at home than I do of our family trip to Disney World.
That’s why I focus on the simple things with my children – I have a “special kiss” with each of them (like a secret handshake). It started with my oldest son who hates kissing- we just touch foreheads. But when I ask him for a “dook” his face softens and his eyes glow. When my oldest daughter looks back she might remember enjoying coffee with me in the mornings before the others have woken up, but she might not. She’ll remember that she was loved, though, because love is rarely in large displays and public declarations and more often in small gestures and whispers.
Editor Notes: Because they fit so well together, I highly recommend that you also read Ailie Bauman’s post on “Speaking Love to Your Children in a Way They Understand.”
About Lovisa Hammock
I am a Christian homeschooling mom of 6 tenacious kids who are too smart for my own good, ages 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, and 11. I love Jesus with all my heart!! My likes include laughing, newborns, quiet reading time, theology, empty bathrooms, the smell of newspapers, and men’s room changing tables. My dislikes include “dry clean only”, Caillou, non-maternity jeans, preschoolers with harmonicas, extra tupperware lids, and socks that need to be paired. I have a natural fear of grapes, watch batteries, contagious gastrointestinal illnesses, permanent markers, and the laundromat. My hobbies include quilting, reading, writing, and hanging out with my awesome husband. Mostly I pass my time with my wonderful church community, attempting to simultaneously declutter my house and hoard things I might be able to use in the future, teaching my kids everything from the ABC’s to Shakespearean Drama, looking for silverware, and hiding in the closet with Little Debbie snacks.