>The Grammar of Love

>In the past day or so, I’ve had this conversation and/or topic come up more than four times. So I’m guessing that it might be worth a post. Many of you, the 7 or so who follow this blog, have already heard or know all this….but like I said, it keeps coming up.
Bear with me. It’s long (I know, you’re shocked).
It’s not a glamour post for me…it’s the dark side, people.
The side I’m least proud of.
But it’s truth.
And, for you moms about to bring home your first or another, maybe it will set your minds to rest.
It’s a scary thing, having a kid.
Baby, toddler, older child…bringing one home, from the hospital biologically or from elsewhere through adoption….well, I think it can be terrifying. It can be ecstatic, but it can be terrifying too.

Maybe it should be.
Sigh, read on.

A long time ago, I thought I had it figured out. I had the “mom” thing worked out. I knew how to do it, mostly. I knew how it worked. I knew all about love.

I mean, I had gone through a number of years of marriage, some of them rocky. And we were still together, against all odds.
I had given birth to three children, so hey, I knew how all about that kind of consuming cosmos changing love.
And I had even adopted. Not once, but all at once, twice!

And that’s when I realized it.
I didn’t know spit about love.

Because all of a sudden, it wasn’t a Hallmark card anymore.
It looked a little bit like a Hallmark Movie, without the glamorous actors.
The screenplay would’ve read like one, since our first adoption set, of a surprising TWO girls [born 4 days apart, two separate adoptions, suddenly] was a unique and God sent gift. (and a long story, for another post)
But underneath, there was a rumble. An earthquake, way deep under the surface.

Because for me, this is where my preconceptions, my lofty concepts and tidy packaged notions of what love meant came utterly unraveled.

I had thought Love was kind of like, you know, LUUV.
It felt all fluttery or breathless and deep at the same time. It could take your breath away and lift you to the highest piers. It could wrap you in the soft comfort and you could burrow in with a sigh.
And it can. It did.
But that’s the adjective kind of love.
It’s great stuff, don’t get me wrong. I crave it, we all do and happily enough, it’s there. And was.
But with adoption, that was when I learned the most real kind of love.
The truth.
(And I know, you’re way ahead of me. I told you I was a slow learner, didn’t I? You would’a thought a baby girl with dreadful colic would’ve taught me, huh? Again, sloooww learner. Kinda dense. That’s me, but I digress).
But the real truth – the real love….is a verb.

Love is a verb.

Love is doing. Period.
And because I am so dense, God had to send me MORE children to teach me this.
So He did. And I learned. It was not easy.
I learned that when you are overwhelmed with the change of family, from three to five children and all of them young enough to be very needy…love becomes stretched. Or it seems like it does, or did. Not necessarily stretched in an immediate ‘bring them into the cushion of my embrace’…but stretched in the sense of “oh my goodness, how do I do this and I’m not FEELING any flutters or torrents of emotion, unless you count the flutters behind my burning sleepy eyes and the tears about to flood!”
And I cried. And I was shocked and despairing at my utter failing.
As a mom. As a person. I didn’t love enough, somehow, I thought.
I didn’t FEEEEEEL the feelings that they say you are supposed to feel, I thought.

I wasn’t being lifted. I was sinking, I thought.

I wasn’t really.
I was learning, and growing, and loving.

Thank God, literally, for the graces bestowed on the sacrament of marriage.
Instead of wondering what was wrong with me, or worst of all, scoffing it all off my husband smiled at me, unconcerned, although of course, concerned…..
I would follow him around the house, carrying one or two of the babies, saying, “Yeah, I know, I love them…but, it’s so much, so much to do…..will I feel it? Will I love them enough????”

Because I knew. I found out – how shallow and needy I am (still).
Because it was about me.

He would smile at me. Then he would take one and hold her.
And he said, “Just DO for them.”
“Huh? Are you not watching me, that’s what I’m doing!”
“That’s right. That’s just right” he would smile.
And when he would see my eyes about to pool over, and me look at him in dismay, he would remind me, “DO for them, the feelings, the depth of feeling, will come. That’s what makes the truest love. DO for them. Don’t worry. Do for them”
So I did.
I walked the floors with the one who (still) hates change and was fussy.
I held the prickly one who couldn’t be still but was electric and could light up the room.
I made endless bottles and changed endless diapers.
I rocked.
I rocked.
I lost count of the times I got out of bed at night, 3, 5, 8 times a night, the times we stood there together, both falling asleep as we soothed them back to sleep. (no it is not easy to get two babies on the same schedule, at least it’s not one of my skills).
I slept standing up sometimes, holding them until they would be sleepy and willing to be put back in their crib.
I swapped back and forth with my husband, nuzzling little necks and smooching chubby cheeks.
And one day, not long after (and those days are a blur, I lost time, the pics don’t reflect the time it took, don’t freak out) I realized it.
OH, how I loved them. With the whole deal….the schmaltzy songtrack, jump in front of a train for them loved them.
And then I realized. He’s right: Love is a verb.

It’s great when it’s the adjective love…but that is really all about ME.

REAL love, caritas, charity, the gift of love, is a verb.
It’s the doing, whether or not you’ve got the feeling…perhaps MORE so if you don’t.

And honestly, as a mom, that is the most important thing to remember.
And honestly, as a mom, I totally forget. (slow learner, remember?)
I am quite sure that is why God keeps sending me more children, seven now. For me to learn, somehow and eventually, and maybe permanently. Because He knows how MUCH I will love these children, in all the ways that can be love. He knows better than I.
And with my now rather largish family, I have so many chances to practice.
And when I have bad days or the kids are in an irritating phase or patch, when I am in an irritable phase or patch, it’s easy to forget that despite the fact that the LOVE of them all, already (hold this child in Addis…done for) even this newest one, is long established, the Love of them is a willed action. I have to love them, do for them, no matter their (or my) sulks or moods or missing chores. And then when I do….the LOVE of them, the gushy feeling, comes back if it’s flitted to the shadows….sooner usually.
Our faith tells us the same thing of course.
God is love.
The full grammar of Love, every part of it.
The Fruit of the Spirit is love.
The greatest of these is love.
But real Love is not the Hallmark love that our culture and media will tout, they spout the adjectival love.
But REAL love: it’s Caritas.
It’s a gift.
It’s a gift of yourself.
It reflects the greatest sacramental love.
Sacraments: outward signs of invisible Grace.
Thank goodness it doesn’t depend on US and our feeeeelings.

It’s real.

It’s doing.

Love is a Verb.

Despite all…it’s not SO bad being a slow learner…..and really, I hope and pray to keep learning and I have a very very long way to go.
My mind reels with how much more God has to teach me, and how or what (or how many) He might send to do so. (that is the exciting part in a way)
Grammar was never my strong suit. But look at my school!

See, how beautiful are my teachers?!

21 thoughts on “>The Grammar of Love

  1. >That was an amazing post! I have 4 children, going on 6–I must have a lot to learn!! Thanks for sharing your wisdom that you’ve already gained from experience.

  2. >Sometimes I believe that God sent you to write… just for me. Because I’m in the thick of it- the sleepless nights, the three very young and needy children, the knowing that I will be given more. The wondering if my husband knows how weary I am… the tears about to fall, sometimes all day. But you are so right. I love them… more and more… because I just “do” for them… I serve them… and then out of the verb comes the feeling… what a gift it is! Thank you sweet mama…

  3. >YOu know, thank you, you are all so very kind. It is undeserved. This topic is sacramental, in more ways than described….Because…. you know, when I mentioned that this topic has come up many times in the past few days, I neglected to point out that ONE of those times was with ME in Confession. On this very point. Thank God for confession. Literally.So. I still do this. This is still something that is hard to remember and do. Not So wise after all, eh? Just so you don’t think I’m getting the big head from your kind comments…..it’ll take me a lifetime to try to get this right, I fail daily. Sigh.But thankfully, the sacraments don’t. whew.

  4. >wow. I love this posting. I will print it and save it for when we bring home our new member(s) and I am tired and hungry and taking care of everyone else who is tired and hungry.

  5. >Thank you for your post! Though I don’t yet have children, I needed to hear this, too. I’ve only been married three months, and there are days I am scared I don’t love my husband as I should. He works full time and is taking classes part-time, so we have very little time together. I am currently job-hunting and am home full-time. With only one income right now, and increasing costs of gas and food, days go by when he is the only person I see. Though I take care of everything around the house, pay the bills, make sure dinner is ready when he gets home, pack his lunch, and do everything I can to help him out, it doesn’t always seem like enough. Thank you for your very timely reminder about love being a verb, that by doing what I can for him, it is enough.

  6. >Stephanie,I have found this applying totally to husbands too (and in-laws, family, etc). And it’s just as hard too. Sometimes more so! I’ve had those years and sometimes/often have those days. Marriage is definitely give and take, sometimes more give….Hang in there!!

  7. >You took a very tired idea (love is a verb) and made it so real! You took all of the cheesiness out of it and expressed the truth behind the cliche. I can definitely relate to what you said. Thank you!By the way, came here via Julie at Happy Catholic.

  8. >I just wanted to say hi, and tell you that I loved this blog because it’s like you put words to all of my feelings that I have not been able to express about motherhood.

  9. >Another wonderful post! Thanks to you, your beautiful teachers ,and your introspective writing we get to be a part of this spiritual journey. May we be open to the lessons that come into our lives, as well.And you thought you only had 7 people that followed your blog! :)Rebecca

  10. >Coffeemom and Coffeedoc,When my husband and I were taking marriage preparation classes from our priest, he said, “Love is a decision, not an emotion”. How true! (But, I wanted that gushy feeling like you did.) You guys seem to have it all together with all of your children. Keep up the good work!C

  11. >Hey! Jennifer M. just linked this post on her blog. Sorry I didn’t read it before. I think I was totally DOING love back then, and not much blogging.But this is an EXCELLENT post as we both wait to bring our next daughters into our homes. You are such an encouragement. I hope to remember this post when I am bound to be doing love again.

  12. >What a great post!! I have 4 bio kids and am adopting our 5th child from Ethiopia and are expecting our referral any day…We’re at the top of the list using AGCI….anyways, I’m addicted to coffee..so was attracted to your blog immediately, ha 🙂 Loved your honesty..kristi johnson


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