21 Love Notes

Nathan and I have been married for over fourteen years. I love the growth, change and depth that has come in that time. I love that we understand each other so well, accept each other “as is”, but still pray for changes we hope to see in each other.  It makes me so excited for what more years of our marriage will look like.

Something interesting happened recently that helped me notice and appreciate the growth in our relationship. Sometime this summer, several weeks back, he hurt my feelings in a big way. And wouldn’t you know that today I have no idea what he said and did to hurt my feelings? But I do remember how I felt. I felt unappreciated and unimportant because of some things that he said and did. And I let him know this.  I wasn’t angry and yelling, but I stated my case in a calm way. He immediately knew I was really hurting and that it was justified. He heard me out, thought about it a while, and then told me how sorry he was.  But because he “gets me”, he knew that I’d need some time to recover. Basically in silence.  There was nothing more to say here right now. I expressed how I felt, he validated my feelings and apologized. I wasn’t angry, he wasn’t angry and we both knew this would be the end of the problem and neither of us would bring it up again. But he left me alone and gave me some space.

By space, I mean we were speaking but only really about the necessary conversations to make our family and household function.  I remember that I was about to leave for a meeting, and that I fixed him something for lunch before I went. I thought in my heart of other times in the not-too-distant past when I would have been mad and shown that by not making his lunch.  I remember working in the kitchen and praying for him, that he would better understand me so as to not hurt me like that.  I prayed for myself, that I would quickly forgive him and show him only love. And then I left for several hours to do whatever was on the schedule that day.

When I returned to the house later, it was nearing dinner time and there was lots to do in the kitchen. There was still a little space needed between Nathan and me, as I was still processing my feelings and fully forgiving him. I moved about the kitchen and found a little paper on the tray of the toaster oven. It was a small, white, typed out sentence kind of like the one in a fortune cookie.  It said “Reasons I love Katy 2/21”, and then it said something nice about me. Hmm. I thought at first he’d been writing things down for a long time and this particular thought was from February 21. But then I started finding another, and then another note. The others said 14/21 or 7/21. I finally understood that there must be 21 notes. (The number 21 has always been one of our special numbers.) I found them everywhere in the kitchen:  the coffee maker, junk drawer, oven (that one turned brown during the preheat).  I   said nothing to him about it and tucked the handful of notes away in my bathroom.

I could certainly feel my heart softening. Later, I found more notes in my jewelry drawer, makeup, medicine and so on. At the end of the day I think I’d found around half of the notes. The next day, all was forgiven and yesterday’s hurt feelings were all forgotten.  I found a few more of the notes, and even discreetly starting looking in places I thought  they might be. And over the course of  the next week or so, I’d found most of them. These notes were about everything. Some were about how I looked, some about things I do specifically for him, some about me as a mother, things he admires about me, reasons he’s proud of me. This was good stuff people. He didn’t find this stuff online or in a Hallmark card. This was the real deal.

Yesterday I was reorganizing my shoes, and guess what I found? Under one of my shoes, there was another “Reasons I love Katy”. I read it and smiled. I tucked it away with the others in their secret special place. But first I read them all again. I held on to each word of affirmation from the one human who knows and loves me best in the whole world. I let the words each sink in anew. I thought back through the whole scenario and remembered the prayers I had prayed that day. I see how clearly God answered them both that day and also over time.  I thought about how neither of us has ever spoke again of the incident (which I can’t even remember) and we’ve still never said a word about the notes to each other. I counted the notes, put them in number order and noticed that  there are only 20. Number 16 is still out there somewhere waiting to renew me at just the appointed time.

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Transition is hard.

Well, the “back to school” honeymoon is over. The excitement has worn off. The heart-shaped sandwiches and love notes in the lunch boxes were short-lived. The new outfits have all been worn and are now just a heap of dirty laundry. And of course, the new zippered binder is already breaking. We are now asking at 6:10 a.m. with hints of desperation if we will really have to do this every day.  Labor Day provides us a sick combination of time to recover from the initial shock of routine and time to regress back to our old patterns.  We will  likely lay in the fetal position again on Tuesday morning at 6:10 a.m. and ask why the long weekend was placed at this point in time to torment us so.  Yep, this is what back to school looks like now.

I’ve thought and prayed a lot this last week about transitions.  I’ve watched one of my little people break down and cry over needing to find and make new friends. And I was reminded of the simple fact that transition is hard. For real y’all! It’s hard to release your children into the care of someone else for most of their waking hours. It’s hard for those phenomenal teachers to go from vacation time and hours with their own sweet families to being in the classroom with ours. And it’s hard to send a kid off to college and set one less place at  your dinner table. Transitioning is a part of life, but that doesn’t make it any less difficult. So this is why I’ve spent a lot of time in prayer for my family and for yours. For my friend who has a child trying out for the team for the first time.  For my friend who just sent her boy away to college.  For the child who is worried about making friends, the teacher who is exhausted and trying to find the work and family balance, and the mother who just wants her kindergarten baby back at home. I just feel like I want to say to all these people facing all these transitions: “Yes! I see you. I get it. It’s hard, and I’m praying for you. We’re all in this together.” So if you’re in the same boat as me, here are some reminders of what we can do to transition well. They’re not rocket science and you’re probably already doing many of these things. But I hope that something I say can help make your transition a little better.

Acknowledge that it’s hard. Give your kids permission to struggle. Let your kids know it’s hard for you too, and that it will take some time for everyone to adjust.

Give grace.  To the child that made everyone late leaving and is fighting back tears. To the other child that forgot to do homework. To the mom (yes, me!) who forgets to put drinks in the lunchboxes. And to those parents who still don’t understand what to do in the car pick-up line.  (Ok, sometimes me!)

Pray with your kids. At breakfast or in the car or whenever you can. Pray with them before their day. A peace will come over you all  from praying together.

Pray specifically for your kids.  Look for moments alone with each kid so they can share struggles and problems they may not want their siblings to know and so you can pray for them throughout the day. I have a child that prefers to do this through texting.

Pray for others transitioning around you. Especially for those in your inner circle who have shared their struggles with you. If you know the specifics, you are best equipped to pray. And of course pray for the teachers your kids have this year.

Recognize accomplishments and answered prayers. Like leaving on time. (We haven’ t done this yet.)  Or your child finding their “group” to sit with at lunch. By just noticing these things,  you’ll remind your family that they are making progress in the transition.

Make changes to improve things that aren’t working.  Yep. Don’t expect to do the same thing and get different results, right? Problem-solve together. You may have to adjust wake up times, leaving times, route if driving, evening routines, where to keep backpacks and on and on.  Make sure as things change that everyone knows and is on the same page.

Encourage encourage encourage. Encourage your kids, your friends as they are parenting, your kid’s teachers. We all need it. Send a quick text or email. Write a note and put it on your child’s pillow.

Remind your kids to look for others to help or encourage at school. Because my kid is there too, and they may be the one that needs a friend. We all need each other, and focusing on others keeps things in perspective.

Thank a teacher. This was already briefly mentioned but I could say it a million times. Make them brownies. Send them a note. Buy them a car. (Don’t we wish we could?) Many of them are doing this transition as a professional and as a parent. And I just don’t even know how except that they are so awesome.

So wake up early with me this week and let’s tackle this together. Don’t miss the opportunity to pray into this season of transition and to actively work to help your family and those in your circle of influence transition well.