By Melissa McLaughlin
Memory of Love
They were just ages five and three. My two sweet daughters were preschoolers and our days were filled with alphabet songs, Raggedy Ann stories and make-believe veterinarian hospitals with waiting rooms full of stuffed animals covered in Disney band-aids. Our son was not yet adopted, so it was just us, the girls and me, while my husband was at work. They were early risers in those golden days. Up at the first ray of sunshine (or even before) ready for a new day of life. Living with the joy, wonder and discovery of “new frontiers” found in the cracks and crevices of our home and backyard. What sweet memories for a mom!
One day in particular, we had packed our car for a trip to the local library. As a young mom this often felt like preparations worthy of a NASA space exploration. Following a hearty breakfast, we tackled the assignment of getting dressed, putting on shoes and brushing teeth and hair. This is no small task for two preschoolers and adequate time must be allotted for phase 1 of the preparations. Next it was time to undertake selection of the perfect stuffed animal to accompany each child. Which one needed a new library book to enjoy? The gray kitty or the striped tiger? Of course, no preschooler trip can be executed successfully without one final bathroom stop.
Last but not least, we would never consider departing for our mission without a snack to nibble on in the car, as we come or go, or at some point along the way. Somehow a baggie of Goldfish or pretzels could help even the mightiest space travelers complete their vast explorations into worlds unknown with greater ease.
On this day of adventure, we prepared our own trail mix snack baggies. The girls loved helping in the kitchen and trail mix was a kid-friendly recipe I thought we could manage. One handful of Cheerios, one handful of peanuts, one handful of raisins. Then everyone’s favorite…one handful of M&Ms! The bright colors…red, green, yellow and blue called out their sweetness! Little fingers gripped those M&Ms with jubilant anticipation as we dropped them into the baggies of trail mix. Our final step was to zip up the baggies and we were ready for take off!
We piled into the car and I buckled everyone into their car seats. I popped in the CD of Vacation Bible School children’s songs and we sang along at the top of our lungs as we headed toward our mission destination. We had only traveled a mile or two when I realized the girls had opened their trail mix snack bags. I giggled quietly to myself at their pressing need for extra nourishment considering the “lengthy” fifteen minute drive to the library.
Suddenly, my oldest daughter called out, “Mommy, mommy!” I quickly peered over my shoulder to survey the scene and see if there was a problem. She reached for me clutching something in her tiny hand. I extended my arm back in response, blindly groping in an effort to assess the situation. She stretched forward, eyes focused, her face resolute with concentration. Using all of her preschool strength she slipped three little M&Ms from her trail mix bag into my hand. Her younger sister noted the gift that was given, observed my wide-eyed surprise and quickly followed suit.
I was stunned. In my hand were six treasured M&Ms placed there as a gift of extravagant love. I was in awe of these little hands and big hearts in the car seats behind me, giving me the best of their cherished trail mix snack. To think, they had hunted through their snack bags rummaging past the Cheerios, peanuts and raisins. They had mined for the rare and coveted M&M gemstones. Those M&Ms were the prize in the bag. The gold at the end of the rainbow. The long awaited jackpot. And yet, my two preschoolers sacrificed their own joy, so they could bring me joy. These M&Ms cost them. They cost my girls their own preschooler pleasure. My heart melted faster than chocolate candy on a sweltering summer day.
They gave the best of themselves to me that day in the car and to this day I have never forgotten it. They didn’t award me this precious gift because I forced them or even because I asked. They bestowed upon me a selfless and gracious gift simply because they loved me. They were moved to this generous act out of sheer love. Even now it touches my heart to remember. Six M&Ms passing through the hands of my young children. Six M&Ms humbling me as an adult before my Father God who has showered heavenly riches upon me.
An Offering of Love
When I think of the widow from the New Testament Bible story who gave everything she had as her offering to God, it brings to mind my two small daughters and the gift of M&Ms.
Mark 12:41-44 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
The widow didn’t give God what was left over after taking her vacation. She didn’t give God what was left over after purchasing new clothes. She didn’t even give God what was left over after paying her grocery bills. She gave God her best.
Loving God First and Most
I hope to become more like the widow, by striving to love God first and most. To that end, I recently felt the Holy Spirit nudging my heart about how my time is spent, especially at the opening of a new day. When I wake up each morning, with God’s help I make it my goal now to whisper a praise to Him before even turning on the light or getting out of bed. “Bless the Lord, oh my soul and all that is within me bless His holy name.” Psalm 103:1 This simple verse awakens my soul to the goodness of God and the warmth of His love shining into my heart like the first rays of dawn.
My next aim is to reach for my Bible. By guiding my hands to hold and read my Bible, I am granting my soul the blessing of first laying eyes on His Word and holding that in my heart before allowing any form of screen – whether phone, tablet, TV or computer, to take precedence. My “screen fast” continues until I have also devoted some time to prayer in order to welcome the Lord into my day, my mind and my heart.
Only after praises, Bible reading and prayer do I permit myself to touch a screen, pick up my “to do list” and begin interacting with the outside world in the new day. Though these are small, quiet choices, they have had a considerable impact on my connection to God’s heart, God’s Word and to His Spirit’s leading. Somehow these tiny actions set the course for my whole day. It opens the channel of my heart and mind for the Holy Spirit to flow more freely from God to me and then ultimately through me. By pausing to drink deeply from the Living Water as the day begins, I find that my heart is full, so I contain more of God to share with others. There’s no point marching around offering to fill empty cups with an empty ladle.
My greatest desire is to love God first and most. I hope these simple steps will strengthen my love for God. Please help me pray to love God more deeply and more completely with each passing day. I invite you to consider asking God to reveal small ways you could give Him a bigger place in your life and your day. Perhaps you have already incorporated these God-loving morning habits into your life. If so, maybe there is another area of your life you might yield to Him out of love. Perhaps there are midday or evening routines that would have a greater impact on your connection with God. No matter the time, no matter the course of action, I pray we will continue to seek God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength with ever increasing measure and ever increasing fervor.
Giving God the Best of Me
Heavenly Father, I pray that You would move my heart with childlike love toward You. Arrest my whole being with the magnificence of who You are and the magnitude of all You have done. Stir the embers of my heart, igniting flames of brightest, pure love for You above all. Let me commit the passion of my soul to You anew each day. Let me not give You the crumbs of my life, the left overs, the parts I never really wanted very much to begin with, the parts that cost me nothing. Help me love you first and most.
Let me give you…
the M&Ms of my time,
the M&Ms of my schedule,
the M&Ms of my money,
the M&Ms of my talents and resources,
the M&Ms of my thoughts and energy,
the M&Ms in my relationships,
the M&Ms of my whole life.
You gave me all. Lord Jesus, help me give my all back to You, though it cost me. Help me reach into the bag that You have given me and offer up to You the M&Ms I find there. Help me give You the best of me.
Matthew 19:14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”