We play this game, my kids and I. A game of extravagant, one-upmanship designed to color in the vibrant shades of how we feel about each other.

We use our favorite word crayons, markers and finger paints to spell out our feelings.

I love you more than pizza.

I love you more than dump trucks.

I love you more than tractors.

I love you more than puppies.

I love you more than cupcakes.

And the ultimate, ultimate: I love you more than chocolate milk.

We wrap our word love in tight monkey hugs around each other. We squeeze hard. And keep trying to out do each other in sheer volume and extravagance:

I love you more than airplanes.

I love you more than ice cream.

I love you more than pudding.

I love you more than my bear.

The declarations come hard and fast and with each new one I watch as my kids fill up to the brim with this powerful and empowering word.

Love.

To be loved.

When last did you hear it? Did you believe it?

Why is this word so much easier for grown ups to give than to receive? I believe it when I say it to my kids. I believe it all the way down to my pinky toes then. I believe Jesus loves them and I know that I would step in front of a bus for them without a second thought. But when last did I receive that kind of love?

When did I actually accept it without trying to shrug it off with a counter offer of how unlovely I am?

Then,

…. I am driving in the car between a doctor’s appointment and what I know will be an unpleasant meeting with my son’s teacher. I am worried. I am worried about a work outcome that is beyond my control, a preschool trip I can’t seem to fit into my schedule, and a nagging tooth ache that should have disappeared after last month’s trip to the dentist.

Love is the last thing on my mind. It’s raining. I am impatient and empty.

And then it comes – unbidden and unexpected.

I love you more than this downpour.

I love you more than the galaxies and the thousand, thousand stars spinning in space.

I love you more than the cherry blossoms.

I love you more than baby’s breath.

I love you more than you love your kids.

I love you for you.

And I’m crying because I feel so unlovely and so loved at the same time. I can’t see clearly anymore and my heart feels tight and my chest aches and incredibly being loved more than chocolate milk makes sense to me now.

I feel it. The tight, tight monkey hug from the God who made me and speaks my love language just like I speak my kids’.

So, now I’m wondering.What is your chocolate milk? Because I so very much want you to know that He loves you more than that.

He loves you more.

He loves you.

He loves you.

And He loved you like that first.

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