Love Is Greater Than 16 & 17

 Photography by  Kati Ellis

Photography by Kati Ellis

I sat down to attend my first parent teacher conference two years ago for our daughter who, at the time, was in Kindergarten. This was surprisingly met with some feelings of anxiety. The teacher started going down the list of the areas scored with ease and then paused before saying, “As you will see here, Vivian is having a hard time in this area.” I perked up and felt my heartbeat start to increase, this was the moment when I would surely receive ALL the answers to my questions I had ever had about whether or not I was doing “enough” for my child.

The teacher went on to say “When Vivian is writing 1-20 she is skipping 16 and 17.”

This caught me off guard, as I thought parent teacher conferences were about CRITICAL concerns. That ENTIRE morning I had been working myself up for the feedback I was going to receive and thought to myself “here it is.” I let out a little bit of a laugh and remember feeling relief, as well as some confusion, as to why THIS would warrant a sit down conference.

I quickly composed myself and replied,

“Okay, is she being kind to others?”

The teacher then said “Phew, I am so glad you are not stressing out about this feedback.”

She went on saying, ”To answer your question, Vivian is kind to others. She is the kid who, on her own, seeks out others who are in need of friendship, looks out for kids whom others have pushed aside and is eager to be friendly and kind to everyone. In fact, this may be the greatest challenge for her in school — having the heart she does and seeing that not everyone around her will use their hearts in the same way. Being a good friend really is the most important skill for them to develop and master in Kindergarten. Sadly, I do have to score these other areas.”

As I watch our two children, it seems natural for them to love others, forgive quickly, and include those around them without differences getting in the way. I often wonder “What happens to us as we mature and grow? Have we really evolved for the better with age?” 

I am pretty convinced that EVERY adult needs to return to Kindergarten at least one time in their adult life to strengthen their FRIENDSHIP, KINDNESS and INCLUSION skills.

 Photography by  Kati Ellis

Photography by Kati Ellis

In our world it feels to me that we have become preoccupied with measuring our success based off the grades we receive, the money we make, or the location in which we reside (to name a few). So much so, that we have lost focus on what matters most. Sure, counting from 1-20 is a good skill to learn; however, I am confident we would all agree being kind far outweighs that.

However, being kind to others is not something we’ll just wake up and do with ease without FIRST learning and implementing the practice of kindness to ourselves.

In the book of Matthew, we read of the 2nd great commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor, as thyself.” To me that means that LOVING MYSELF is a PREREQUISITE to loving others.

 Photography by  Kati Ellis

Photography by Kati Ellis

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever.
— Hebrews 13:8

I have experienced in my life that as I have become comfortable and appreciative of who I am, faults and all, my ability to more freely love others has increased. I have been able to replace fear of others with an appreciation for others as I have rid myself of judgements.

In my studying of the teachings and life of Jesus Christ I have found a common theme about His love: IT DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE OR END. He did not just say go and love one another—He loved. Not only did He say, “Come follow me,” but He also went to people who were in need rather than waiting for them to come to Him.

In Hebrews 13:8 we read, “Jesus Christ is the same YESTERDAY, and TODAY, and FOREVER.”

I find myself reciting this scripture in my mind weekly. His love IS the same yesterday, and today, and forever. HIS LOVE IS INCLUSIVE, available to all. It is for me and it is for you. It is there no matter our faults and it does not grow with our successes. It just simply exists. It always has and always will. He loves me. He loves you. I believe that one of the most frustrating things He deals with daily is that He witnesses us struggling to treat ourselves and others with a love that parallels His love — a love that is understanding of our value, desires, and capacity.

 Photography by  Kati Ellis

Photography by Kati Ellis

Some days will be hard, self doubts will arise, and we may say to ourselves, “I just don’t know if I can do this.” Then I remember that it was Mary, a faithful woman, whom the Lord trusted with the important message that changed it all: “He is risen.” He could have shown himself to anyone, yet he chose her. Likewise, he has chosen and entrusted me — just as he has chosen and entrusted you — to do His work and to share His love. When you start to question whether or not you are doing “enough,” rest assured because the presence of those questions are NOT the evidence of your “failures,” rather proof that you are in fact doing, “enough.”

I believe as we implement a practice of recognizing our self doubts, as evidence of us doing “enough,” and remove the judgements we have placed on ourselves a domino effect of kindness to ourselves and to others will take place. When we feel less than, it is common for our motivations to dwindle, our intentions to fade and our appreciation for who we are to decrease. In contrast, WHEN WE BELIEVE that WE ARE “ENOUGH” and APPLY that belief, OUR LOVE FOR OURSELVES WILL INCREASE. As our love for who we are grows, we will be able to share love with those around us more freely, thus making the love of our Savior Jesus Christ more readily available to ALL of his sisters and brothers.

_W0A7547.jpg

KRISTEN MURRAY

Special thanks to
The Faith Collective