Cause I Still Want to be “In Love”

I really wanted to have this post up in time for Valentine’s Day, but now it’s Valentine’s Night and I am just sitting down to write it.

I’ve spent a inordinate amount of time lately thinking about my babies falling in love. I had quite a preoccupation with the idea, and so did their daddy, so I imagine we’ll be dealing with this much sooner than we’d like.

I know I want to somehow, someway, express to them what all maturely married people eventually learn: love is not about that “in love” feeling. But how can you learn this without being married? Before marriage, did you really grasp, at all, how few of your needs your spouse would fully meet? I didn’t. I wanted to be in love…all consuming, easy, head-over-heals, l-o-v-e.

Am I saying that I never have loving feelings toward Papa Bear? Of course not. I have them all the time. Sometimes, admittedly on rare occasions, I still get a little giddy and breathless just hanging out with my man. But we’ve certainly learned the hard way that our marriage is not a joy ride of endorphins and pheromones.

And I’m glad.

Before marriage, wise married women told me that I should look to Jesus as my husband. I shamefully admit that this idea made me gag. I know now that I did not understand what they meant, but I’m currently at a loss over how they could have done a better job of explaining the concept. See, I thought that a romance with Jesus meant that I would never be married, and “Hey, why won’t I get married!?” What turns out to have been the greatest counsel of my life was always received with a hint of insult.

But now I know.

Jesus is the ultimate lover. He is exactly what our husbands are called to be (but will never fully become). He laid down His life for us, He loves us passionately, and He always has our best interest in mind (not our comfort, but our best). A romance with Jesus doesn’t prevent us from loving in a human sense. No, it enhances our human romance (i.e. marriage) by teaching us how to love.

If we can learn to receive from Jesus we will not overburden our human partner. They cannot be our everything, and expecting them to be will only destroy us.

A romance with Jesus has changed my outlook on life. When Papa Bear slams the front door, hides dirty socks under the living room chairs, disrobes down the hall with no intention of picking up his clothes until work the next day…I might go to him about the “issue,” but first I take it to Jesus. If nothing else, going to my perfect groom helps me to gain a little perspective. I mean, faced with Jesus I’m no prize either. It’s good for me to remember that.

So, on this cold Valentine’s Night, as I’m about to cuddle up with Papa Bear and watch chick flicks until we fall asleep, I just want to say this: I love my husband, and he loves me. But he’s not my everything. He can rest easy in that; and I can rest in the arms of Jesus.

Happy Valentines Day.

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Dear Diary,

Today I am 32 weeks pregnant with my fifth child (official pregnancy update coming tonight). I love being a mom, and I feel at least less overwhelmed with motherhood than with the rest of life. My children help me to narrow in and really focus on the everyday, even the minute by minute. If God brings more glamorous ministry into my life, I’ll gladly accept it. But I’m not too worried about my future. It’ll come when it comes.

Who could have known how much motherhood would calm my ambition? I certainly didn’t. If I live this exact life for the next ten years, I know it will only feel like two. Everything is happening so fast, and I desire only to slow down. The older girls are already little ladies; it makes me happy and sad all at the same time. I’m not ready to let them go (even in the little ways), yet I grow more and more aware of the fleetingness of childhood.

Jesus is my life, and so my children are as I lay down my life for them. But I cannot let them take the ultimate place. If then, what will I do when they grow up and leave me? Where will I turn? My all consuming passion must remain with Christ, yet I find myself worrying and fretting over my children even as I pray for them at night. Oh Satan, I see you in those moments. I will not let you have my mind.

I love my children far above my own life. But if that is to be exemplified as truth, I should have no fear for their future. What an honor that God would give them to me; but ultimately, they’re not mine. I’m raising them for the Kingdom, not as ornaments of my home. They’re His children, and I do trust Him with them.

I ask God to raise me up quickly so that my children do not have to wait on my growth. I desire to parent with glorious contentment and my eyes fixed firmly on the end of my salvation. And I want to say, “Come quickly Lord Jesus” with no regrets about what I will miss from this earth.

But for now, this is my wonderful life. I am so grateful to God for his blessing and protection, and I boldly ask Him for more: more peace, more joy, and more faith.

January 31, 2009

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He takes my breath away.

If I was a more mature person I would live my life in blissful joy, truly understanding and relishing in my salvation. But in my current state of development, I still have bad days. OK, sometimes I have weeks that are just plain rotten. I’m sad or angry or petty or hurt…there is a long list of emotions in which I might willfully immerse myself in order to avoid the goodness of God. Hey, I’m just being honest. This weekend, He truly took my breath away…probably because I let Him.

We didn’t make it to Denver until almost midnight. Of course the kids were exhausted, but so excited to see their Grammie. We all sat up and talked for a few minutes, and then retreated for a very easy bedtime. In the morning we piddled and dawdled and were just plain lazy. We made it out to the Stock Show sometime around one o’clock. I had packed our heavy coats, gloves, and hats, but we ended up not even needing hoodies. It was downright hot in Denver, CO!

Apparently, the Denver National Western (on the second Saturday in the middle of the day) is The. Place. To. Be. The children’s exhibits were unbelievably crowded; but we found peace, and livestock, outside. Even with the crowds, and all of the walking, the kids were great. I was so proud of them because by the end of the day my feet (and back and uterus) were killing me!

Normally, the highlight of our weekend trips to Colorado is driving back through the Springs in time for church. But this time we decided to sleep in and share another leisurely breakfast with Mom. Saturday I had experienced a welcomed break from the headache from hell, but it was back with a vengeance by Sunday. Taking some down time in the morning really helped me to make it through the day intact.

You might remember that someone gave us a car a couple years back. It was such a tremendous and unexpected blessing, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. We were in dire straights financially, and we ended up selling the car to my mother-in-law to pay off a credit card debt. Well, to make a long story short, she decided, over the holidays, that she wanted to “give the car back”! Of course we were thrilled, and extremely grateful; but then we started to think about what we should do with it. I don’t drive much without Papa Bear, and besides, this car had now been given to us twice. So, we decided to give it to my “car-less” mom as a birthday present! So fun!

We packed up the van, and the car, and headed for Colorado Springs around three o’clock. We lingered at my parents’ house to watch the big game (making Papa Bear one happy camper) and then headed home a little after eight.

It had been a great weekend free of conflict and full of the little things that make life great. To top it off, on the four hour drive home I was treated to my five favorite sounds in the whole world. As we pulled away Jared Anderson blared through the speakers. We all danced in our seats and the kids sang along. I love it when my kids sing!

The singing soon turned to silliness, and I was blessed by pure, innocent, completely abandoned laughter. That might just be my all-time favorite sound. Then, soon enough, the backseat quieted and I heard a chorus of contented yawns. Oh, the peace. I was so overwhelmed by the blessings of God that I just sat there and cried.

Once the kids were officially sleeping, I drifted in and out of sleep. As I rested peacefully I could hear the muffled, but beautiful, symphony of Papa Bear interceding for friends and family while praise music continued to softly play. My husband prays. My children are healthy (and unbelievably happy). My soul is secure. My heart is at peace. And my cup truly runneth over.

From Hollywood to Holy

I’m content raising my four-going-on-five children with my hardworking husband in two simple bedrooms and one bath; you all know that by now. But you may not know that wasn’t the plan. I didn’t know this was going to be my life. And I actually had big plans. I don’t mean big like “cancer curing,” I mean five star restaurant and fancy hotel “big”.

You see, ahem, I have just the slightest flare for the dramatic that was supposed to land me on the silver screen. Of course, I was going to use my platform to speak out on behalf of the unborn and defend unpopular presidents. But God must have had other goals for my life, because while I’ve made some definite detours from His perfect plan, I am currently very far from Hollywoodland. And I’m also very, very happy about that.

I don’t want a million dollars anymore. Seriously, everyone wants a million dollars, right? Nope, not me. At least not at the moment. This year, 2008, God has started to show me His heart regarding money, and I feel like I could write a book about just what it is to love it. Because money isn’t evil, not in the least. But you know what? It’s really hard not to love it. And apparently, the more you have, the harder it gets. So no, I don’t want a million dollars. I don’t want more than our cost of living until God can fully trust us with the extra. And I don’t even pretend to know what that will look like. Maybe it’s a big house where people are always welcome. Maybe it’s starting the charity that has been on my heart for two years now. Maybe it’s working as missionaries while living “on our own dime.” I really don’t know.

So currently I’m the gal who throws away her free fashion magazine (without reading it – so if it’s a gift, THANK YOU, but I’d rather you save the money) because it causes her to covet material things. I’ll be honest in that this (the act of throwing it away) shows tremendous growth on my part. But it also reveals just how weak I am. I want to be holy. But then, here I am, still somehow the 22 year old aspiring model/actress who wanted a closet full of new clothes as much as she wanted to eat that month.

I don’t tell you this because I think it’s unique to me. I’m pretty sure it’s not. I’ve gone from coveting Hollywood to desiring holiness. Desiring holiness is not holiness, so please don’t set me up to fall; but like I said, it’s a step in the right direction.

Two-thousand and eight has been such a challenging blessing that I’m pretty sure I could just reprocess it in two-thousand and nine. But I trust God has even more in store. And because He loves me, because He wants to see me holy, I’ll take whatever He desires to give.

Come on, 2009!

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Do You Know What Tiny Dancer Knows?

Wow, this is my very first post from the mountains! I cannot believe just how out of touch I have let myself get. We’ve been in Red River for a month and a half, and really, it feels like so much longer. It has been a long period of readjustment for the Valente family, mostly because we’ve been sick, sick, sick. Our apartment is small for six people, and when one of us catches something, we’re sure to all get it eventually. Papa Bear has even missed a day and a half of work, which is very stressful with our budget. I’ve gone back to freelance writing, but had to quit my first steady job because it required over forty hours a week. I just couldn’t seem to squeeze in everything I need to do on a daily basis, plus that many hours of “extra”. We were disappointed, because the additional income would have been helpful; although, it now looks like something better is opening next week (Praise the Lord!).

So, why am I whining to you about all of this? With four toddlers sick at one time, I have spent quite a few mornings, as of late, in a state of tearfulness. However, this mornings’ tears were a wonderful, and welcomed, release. I’d like to share them with you.

Most of my children are morning people, but there was something extra special about this morning. Tiny Dancer sprinted down the hallway, into the living room, where I had just finished vacuuming last night’s popcorn mess, and reheating a day-old cup of coffee. She looked at me and yelled, “Jesus loves ME!” I smiled through my coffee, “Yes, He sure does Sweetie.” Then, she jumped up on our bed (which doubles as the living-room couch), and for the next five minutes continued to rejoice in the love of her Savior. “Jesus love me. Jesus loves me. Jesus loves ME, yea, Jesus love me!”

I cried because of the sweet evidence that our faith is being imparted to our children. I cried because I knew I hadn’t taught her to repeat that line, except by occasionally singing her to sleep with a chorus of Jesus Loves Me. But most of all, I cried because my barely two-and-a-half year old daughter realizes a truth that, when life gets hard, I so often forget. And, she not only knows it, it makes her jump for joy!

Do you know what Tiny Dancer knows? Jesus loves you, too!

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