How Full is Your Love Bucket?

johnny-brown-498577-unsplashA few years ago I encountered a book entitled How Full is Your Bucket by Tom Rath. It was a fairly quick read but it revealed the story of how powerful words are to a person’s spirit.

He started the book by explaining tactics of the North Koreans during the Korean War. The most effective technique North Koreans used on their prisoners was not physical torture but psychological, achieved by withholding letters from home and telling the prisoners they were forgotten by their family. Unloved. Worthless. As I recall, prisoners who were otherwise untouched and well-fed died of broken hearts and spirit.

Something about this insight shook me to the core.

The author wondered if negative words could have such a drastic effect on people, what sort of impact would the opposite have? He said to imagine that each of us walks around with a bucket, and to scoop from our own and pour it into the bucket of those around us. Our serving is a kind or encouraging word but even as you do this, your bucket never empties. It remains full.

The imagery of this resonated strongly with me. Now, I have always tried to be a person to say a kind word to those around me. Maybe it’s a function of age, but as I get older, I am fearless approaching complete strangers to compliment their hair or smile and I take the time to look them in the eyes when I say it. I don’t flatter. I don’t lie about the things I say. My words are deliberate and genuine, and I honestly try to work at it every chance I get because God knows people need a lift.

At home here with the kids, we’ve got this thing in the mornings. Our kids are a little like me when they wake up. They aren’t completely awake. They don’t bounce out of bed completely conscious, totally happy, with their full “morning strength”. Morning, daresay, is when they are feeling most vulnerable.

Like a thousand parents before us, we stir as the kids crawl wordlessly into bed in the wee hours of the morning. Some days I can just sense it, and I quietly ask,”Do you need your love bucket filled?” and they silently, gently nod with their little heads.

And this is when we spoon and I curl up around my child with my arms tucked across their belly and I start to whisper words of love and encouragement into their ears. I tell them how much I love their smile or spunk or laugh. How grateful I am that they are part of our family. How much they were wanted. How proud I am of their effort. How beautiful I think they are in body and soul. How very much I love them and always will.

And sometimes, even after the words have stopped, we hug just a little bit longer while the full effect slowly drips, drips, drips into their love bucket, kinda like a coffee machine. And the hearts of my children are full until the next time.

At the suggestion of my friend Carol, I finally read the The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman a few years ago and learned I am a “words of affirmation” kind of chick who appreciates some “acts of service” on the side. I probably could have guessed my primary love language sooner than my late 40s but it was validating to understand myself and others around me much better than before.

It explains why I fell incredibly hard decades ago for someone who wrote songs about me. They were among the first words of affirmation I had ever received. Those words were so potent, they linger with me even today. And I’m still a complete, total sucker for a kind, personal word. I wish I didn’t need it but it’s like I was born with a hole in my bucket. Or maybe a hole got punched in my bucket…I don’t know.

Over the years, I realized that it isn’t normal or psychologically healthy for outsiders to be the primary ones to fill your love bucket. This should come from your family of origin. I vowed I wouldn’t let that be an issue for my own kids. Ever.

So when it comes to my kids, it’s entirely possible I am doing this more for me than for them. I don’t know if it’s the hugging and sense of warmth and safety they crave more or the words, but they get both from me. Actually, my husband and I used the Chapman book to understand what our kids need and I do know, and I have adapted my style accordingly as Chief Administrator of Louie Love.

How full is your love bucket? What are you doing to fill those around you? Got your ladle?

Photo by Johnny Brown on Unsplash

The Bible ABCs

Have you seen this little boy reciting a Bible verse for each letter of the alphabet?  Apparently several folks are convinced it is Prince George but no, it’s a little boy named Tanner from Texas. British accent…Texan accent….same difference!

I was completely mesmerized and delighted watching him. I want to squeeze him, he’s so darn cute!

He’s 4. What gets me, and I’m embarrassed to admit this, is how I can’t quote 26 lines of scripture and I’m, um, older than 4. Now, it’s true that I recognize nearly every single line of scripture that Tanner says, but I couldn’t quote them verbatim.

I’ve been shown up by a four-year-old. Good for him. Even better for his parents! Man, you gotta love good parenting.

Let me back up a sec: I’ve been Christian all my life. I grew up Orthodox, which is pretty much code for “complex Christianity”. Orthodoxy is not Worship 101. It is off-the-deep-end stuff, unchanged since the very early days of the church a couple of millennia ago.

Let me emphasize: Orthodoxy is relatively unchanged from the early days of the church regardless of the world’s issues du jour. There’s a lot of emphasis on fasting, repentance, sin, suffering, symbolism, repetition, mysticism, ritual… My parents guided me what to do in church growing up but didn’t really explain why. They didn’t know why themselves, and so it went for generations before them.

Now my parent were steadfast and pious in their devotion to be sure, but well, I’m an inquiring mind. I always have been. I just knew I wasn’t going to get any answers from them. And reading scripture on your own wasn’t part of the ritual so it hasn’t been as top of mind as it should be for me.

It’s been a slow journey for me ever since. Many “cradle Orthodox”, as we’re called, don’t bother. Several of them just leave the church than explore their faith any deeper.

Despite not quite understanding about Orthodoxy, despite endless questions on my part and despite a few aspects that strike me the wrong way, I am still drawn to it.

During each Divine Liturgy we read an epistle and a selection from one of the Gospels, but they often use one of the older translations so the language shared aloud with the masses is archaic, clunky….and often times we have a guest reader for the epistle which is read at a volume and speed or cadence that doesn’t do much to facilitate understanding. I hear many comments from people about how they tune out during that part of the service.

They tune out! And we hear the same scripture verses annually so you’d think after a couple of decades, the message would sink in. And some of the messages do but they don’t speak to me personally and what I am struggling with. That’s something I need to remedy on my own.

So yes, yes, I should read the Bible frequently and deeply. I admire the people who can recite and take comfort in scripture for the various trials of life. I want to be that person. But I’m still a baby Christian. I should study the Bible, underline the parts that resonate with me, and commit some to memory. I haven’t done it. Only last year did I commit to reading more period, let alone more from the Bible. I even have an app on my phone so I can study it at a moment’s notice but it didn’t do much to immerse me more frequently in the verses.

Earlier in the week I also saw the image below online, and it too stopped me in my tracks. How many times have I allowed those very same outer messages to penetrate me? I found myself somewhat in awe of the spiritual armor this woman has. I get that she may not be real.


There have been times I felt those things deep inside of me, but I didn’t have the actual quotes ready to go in my head when I’m feeling down. The quotes are fantastic. Balm for the soul.

29216501_10214167534134875_4737592666882048000_nThis malady doesn’t affect just me. My young daughter and I had a little kerfuffle this week. She was feeling overlooked and unloved, and she lashed out in a minor way in both her behavior and words. It made me wonder have I been neglecting her? Am I giving her the love she truly needs? It struck me that I should be helping her build this same incredible spiritual armor and I’m failing.

We spent some time hugging and cuddling and I shared my hopes and dreams for her. I reassured her that she was wanted and loved and this love I have for her is an eternal thing. I worked hard to refill her love bucket. That’s what we call those words of affirmation, and this is a technique I picked up from reading How Full Is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton.

Yet I told her how my Mom’s been gone for 30 years now, and while I don’t remember uplifting, encouraging words from her, the fact is I won’t always be around to build up my daughter’s spirits. I truly believe it’s a parent’s job to do that for their children, and I will absolutely step up the effort, but I told her she needed to remember my words and let them echo forever in case I’m not always there to give her this love.

But let’s be real: my words aren’t as good, as strong, as the ones in this image. Those words have been fortified by God. Those are the words I should be sharing with her so that when I am long gone from this earthly place, she can open up a Bible and receive comfort in hearing, remembering, what I’ve told her first hand.

How did it take me this long to figure that out? Thank God I figured it out.

Along comes Tanner. Whoa! Now, I know a 4-year-old doesn’t necessarily grasp an understanding of every line he’s learned but for heavens’ sake, he has learned the scripture. He can call upon these verses whenever he needs to in the future. You know how some people wait until they feel something before they do it yet it’s really the other way around. Sometimes you need to think it before you can feel it. Tanner has a jump start, ladies and gentlemen. He’s got the words today and the Spirit will whisper the meaning in ways big and small over the years.

Tanner is wearing a suit of armor.

At our house we have weekly family meetings otherwise known as The Louie Scoop. I have been wondering how best to teach our kids more about what it means to be Christian and how best to incorporate the messages of love as noted in the Bible.

I know what we’ll be doing for the next 26 weeks.

What do you think? What is your favorite Bible verse and why? I’d really like to know. We have several more weeks in the year beyond those first 26. God bless and peace out.✌🏻