Why Am I Afraid to Love?

I had just pulled the big, white Suburban, full of kids, into the driveway. It had been the second day of Vacation Bible School and I had volunteered. The baby had fallen asleep immediately, even before we had pulled out of the church parking lot and I intended to keep her asleep and transfer her into her bed as soon as we got home. I opened the rear passenger door to get her out, unbuckling the seat belt as gently and quietly as I could. I lifted her up and turned around and almost bumped into my neighbor, Richard. He had come over and was standing right outside the door of the SUV, waiting to talk to me. It was a little past noon and already I could smell the alcohol on him.

“Just give me one minute,” I pleaded, hoping the interruption would not wake the sleeping child in my arms.

“How many kids do you have now?” he remarked as I frantically grabbed at my keys and opened my front door and swept upstairs to put her down to sleep, wondering all the while what in the world Richard had come to talk to me about and if I could accomplish my task of keeping the baby asleep and then gather my boys and their best friend, whom I had left unprotected in the car.

I came downstairs as the boys wrestled and laughed their way inside. I noticed my purse and the diaper bag inside the house and Richard just outside my door.

“I brought your stuff inside,” he said to me, motioning to the bags on the floor.

I panicked, but recovered quickly and apologized for leaving him  as I explained the importance of making sure the baby stay asleep. As I talked, I walked outside and closed the door behind me. The midday sun beat down upon us and the windless humidity and smell of his intoxication hung heavy about us.

Richard began by telling me that his daughter (with whom he lived in the house across the street) was moving to a different house and that he needed to get rid of some of his things and he had a wood lathe that he wanted Jason to have. He said he couldn’t sell it, but needed to get rid of it, or else it would be thrown away.

I told him I would talk to Jason about it, but that we did not have a truck to move it and that we were trying to get rid of some of our things in order to simplify our lives. Then I asked him where he was going.

And his answer has broken my heart.

“To a shelter,” Richard said, worn eyes looking down. “My kids are done with me and this is the end of their help.”

I stood there silent. There were all of these churchy answers floating around my brain, wanting to come out like, ‘Just trust in Jesus,’ or ‘God will heal you, just ask him.’ But I couldn’t say any of that. Maybe he didn’t want to get well. Or maybe he had already asked for healing and healing hadn’t come. And I don’t have answers for an alcoholic.

I said all I could think to say. “I’m so sorry, Richard.”

After telling him I would talk to Jason, he squared his shoulders and walked as dignified as a broken man could walk back to his daughter’s house.

I wish I could tell you a happy ending to this story. But my fear got in the way of my love. A couple days later I noticed a pickup truck in their driveway and the hustle and bustle of packing and loading. When we came home from VBS that afternoon I could see Richard sitting in his garage, amid cardboard boxes and a mattress leaning against the wall. I deliberately parked the car, got all the kids out on the opposite side of the driveway, so Richard could not see us and I ushered the kids inside the house quickly. I even scolded Thaddaeus for hanging back on our front porch, looking for a toad he had trapped earlier that day.

I was afraid of Richard.

I was afraid to even wave at him and acknowledge his presence.

I was afraid of his brokenness and so I hid inside my house.

This morning I opened up the garage door to take a walk and I noticed that Richard’s car was gone. He had moved and my last chance to say goodbye had been wasted because of fear. I wept as I prayed and repented for my lack of love. And then I remembered something that had happened last year. I remembered my daughter, Addie, had written a bunch of notes that had said, “Jesus loves you,” and she and Jeremiah had run around the neighborhood ringing doorbells and leaving the notes, to the infuriation of some neighbors and to the blessing of others.

I remember one evening being outside with my husband as our boys rode bikes on the street with the neighbor kids. Richard had come out of his house and walked over to Jason and had told him, in a choking voice, just how much that note that Addie had left meant to him. Jason asked him, in the sincere and strong way that he has, how Richard was doing. Richard’s eyes had filled with tears and he said, “Not good.” But then he squared his shoulders and walked away back to his house.

Why am I afraid to love? I think it’s because I believe the lie that in order for God to love me, I must be perfect. When I see the vagabond and the addict and the homeless man, I start to believe that love is dependent upon the wise choices we make. They have not made wise choices and therefore are below me. Not worthy of my time or my attention or my money. Not worthy of my love.

But I forget that I am the ragamuffin. I am in desperate need of the love of God and He loves, oh He loves me, not based on anything good that I do or any good choices that I make!

As Brennan Manning, one of the men most humble and secure in his own brokenness and belovedness in the Father, has written:

Our trust in Jesus grows as we shift from making self-conscious efforts to be good to allowing ourselves to be loved as we are (not as we should be).

You see, my daughter had it right when she wrote the notes with the cheerful and uncomplicated message.

Jesus loves you.

When I allow myself to believe that this is true, it casts out my fear and empowers me to love others.

 

 

 

 

Behold the Love!

I have the privilege of sharing my story on my dear friend, Kelly’s blog today. I have written for those who have felt unworthy of the Father’s love and for those (like me) who did not even know their need for it. May it stir us to begin the journey of beholding the unfathomable love bestowed upon us by our good Father.

It was ten years ago, when my oldest daughter was but six months old, that I began the journey of knowing the love of the Father. We were at Maranatha Bible Conference, a family camp along the shores of Lake Michigan that my mother’s side of the family has been going to for almost 30 years now. The missionary focus that year was Mission India and the speaker was John DeVries, the kind of man who just radiated the love of God like no one I had ever seen. He instructed us to pray the Word of God and gave us an assignment that week to use the passage of 1 John 3:1 and each day take only a couple words and pray that God would reveal them to us in a great way. Unbeknownst to me, in the instruction to pray the Word of God slowly and thoughtfully, he was teaching me the ancient discipline of lectio divina.

To read more, click the link below.

http://thesobieskicrew.blogspot.com/2015/06/behold-love-by-kristin-brown.html

The Fifty Book Challenge

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I want to share something that has been an invaluable tool that has gotten us through the past two Houston summers. I didn’t come up with this on my own, but was encouraged to give it a shot by one of my true friends, Angela. It’s called The Fifty Book Challenge and it has revolutionized our summers.

Here is the gist of it: your kids have three months to read fifty books, after which they receive fifty dollars to spend on something real.

Two summers ago when we tried this out on Addie and Jeremiah, we all were uncertain as to whether or not they would finish the books in time. Let me tell you something. Fifty dollars has proven to be a huge motivator for our kids. 🙂 Not only did they finish the challenge in time, they had one whole month left!

Let me give some guidelines:

1. The books must be within the reading level of the child. This may seem very overwhelming, but it challenges them and keeps their interest. Some books will naturally be longer than others. We gave them freedom to read smaller fiction or nonfiction that were age-appropriate, which balanced some of the longer reads we also encouraged them to read. I have also said that books of the bible count in this challenge as well. There are great reading lists online for different ages. Utilize the summer reading lists public schools hand out, or the summer displays in the library. You will go to the library. A LOT. Let your kids choose, but also pick a few books you want them to read. Also, any chapter books that Jason or I read aloud to them during that time period counted as a book to add to their list. (Just our personal rule).

2. They have three months from the starting date to finish their fifty books. For example, this year we began on June 5 and will end on September 5. If you break down the days, they generally have a little more than a day and a half to read each book.

3. They must spend their money on something real. This rule has proved to be very difficult to define. Our children are exposed to so much toy junk through advertising and most kids will come up with a lot of ways to spend fifty dollars before they even have it. I am trying to figure out a witty acronym for REAL, which gives them parameters for spending. Our definition has been to spend the money on something that lasts, something that is good, something that is educational. The first summer Addie spent her money on gerbils and Jeremiah spent his on legos. They could both prove to me that their choices fell within the boundaries of something real.

4. Give them at least an hour a day to read. This is the absolute best part of it all. We just got back from a trip up to Dallas and on the way home, all three of our kids were QUIET for at least an hour as they got out their bag of books and their reading logs and started devouring words. (Thaddaeus was reading quietly out loud, as early readers will need to read aloud or to an adult).

Have fun with this! There are so many benefits they will receive from reading multiple books. Our kids have truly learned to love reading during this time and have gained a tremendous sense of personal accomplishment from finishing this challenge.

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Because, let’s face it. When you are handed a crisp fifty dollar bill that you earned, that is a great feeling.