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Love is difficult. Much as I long to love others and be loved in return, now that I have children, I very much understand that love is messy and challenging and there are days when I think I can't do it anymore.

I'm not talking about Hallmark card love, about hearts or kisses or sentimental words. Abstract love—love as a concept—that I can do. It's easy to walk into Penny's room before I go to bed and gaze at her asleep—notice how her chest rises and falls, her hair spread out upon her pillow. It's easy to tuck her back under the covers, find Mr. Bear and put him nearby. And it's easy to feel a great surge of love inside my chest at that moment. Or with William—when he looks at me and smiles, with that high –pitched giggle erupting and his eyes lit up. Love is easy then.

But. When Penny has just scowled and said, "No!" or when I've turned my back and then discover she discreetly poured applesauce into her lap, when I ask her to help clean up the blocks and she dumps them on the floor, when she totters over to William and pushes him onto his back, when she whines, "Penny all done nap," before it has even started, when William wakes up shrieking in the middle of the night—love is much harder in those moments.

I am grateful to have a God who does more than love me in the abstract. A God who does not simply gaze in upon me from afar and feel something vague and warm and fuzzy about my life. The mystery of the Incarnation means many things, but among them it means that God loves concretely—by coming into our corporeal world, our physical reality, the blood and sweat and tears and dirt of human existence. God has loved me, through Jesus, in the utterly mundane moments—the tantrums, the whining and pushing, the skinned knees.

I want to receive this tangible love that God offers through Jesus, and I want that love to transform me into someone who loves as he does—with patience and kindness and gentleness and truth. So far, I still have trouble loving people, even (especially?) my own children, and especially when it is messy. But it is in the mundane and messy stuff of life—cleaning a kitchen counter and picking clothes off the floor and wiping a snotty nose—that the refining of my spirit happens. It is there that I glimpse God's love for me. And it is there that I am, I pray, transformed into one who truly loves, even as I am truly loved.

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