“Okay, y’all.” Sterling stood up off the couch and snapped his book shut. “Mom wants us to get the living room straightened up this afternoon. We should go ahead and start so we can have it done by the time she wakes up from her nap.”
Jasper and Mica looked up from their board game. “What about our game?” Mica asked.
Sterling looked down at them. “You can leave it there and finish it when we’re done.” He turned to the girls who were curled up on the couch, writing in their planners. “Y’all girls can dust while we boys straighten up. That would be a surprise for mom, since she didn’t ask us to dust.”
Ruby slipped her pen into the loop on her planner. She looked down at the page where she had written, “Dust living room.” She had already decided to dust the living room as a surprise for mom, and she didn’t appreciate being told to do it when she’d already planned to.
“Okay, Sterling. We will.” Her words were obliging, but her tone of voice was aggravated.
Ruby went in search of the wool duster and dust cloth. Back in the living room, she handed the dust cloth to Amber. “I’ll dust the wall decorations, and you can follow behind me and dust the furniture.”
Amber took the dust cloth and cheerfully began to dust a floor lamp.
“Careful, don’t drop those,” Ruby cautioned Mica, watching him carry a tall stack of books out of the room.
As Ruby flicked the duster over the pictures on the wall, she continued thinking about the way she had reacted to Sterling.
“Why does Sterling irritate me so often? I want to treat him with love, but I just can’t do it. Something he does or says always annoys me, and I talk irritably to him. I don’t think he even noticed I was upset. He’s so used to me sounding that way to him. And, that’s terrible! I don’t want it to be like that. I want to treat him with love, but I just can’t. Even when I do talk nice to him, it’s not always genuine.”
Feeling sad and hopeless at heart, Ruby slipped the duster’s leather cord onto the hook in the laundry room.
* * * * *
Ruby stared at the ceiling, looked out the window, then wrote another sentence on her book report. She loved to read and to write on her own, but book reports for school were another matter.
The door slammed, and Sterling came in, stamping his boots on the rug. He walked past the table, and Ruby instinctively looked down at his boots.
“Sterling!” she cried. “You’re getting the floor muddy.”
Sterling looked down at his boots and the muddy prints behind him, turned, and went back to the rug to take off his boots.
“I’d better go get the broom.” Ruby sighed wearily.
“I can do it,” Sterling offered.
“No, you just go on. I’ll get it.” Ruby went for the broom with a frown on her face.
On her way back to the kitchen with the broom, the frown deepened. Her conscience was pricking her.
“Why didn’t I speak patiently to Sterling?” she scolded herself. “If it had been Jasper I would have. He’s so good-natured that it’s hard to be upset with him. But, for some reason, I just always get so irritated with Sterling.”
Ruby put the broom away and returned to her book report, but her heart was even less in it now than it had been before. Finally, she gave up. Gathering up her paper, book, and pencil, she went to her bedroom. She dropped to her knees beside the bed. Ruby buried her face in the pink bedspread, pouring out her heart to the Lord.
“Dear Lord, Please forgive me for speaking impatiently to Sterling. I’m so tired of struggling. I just can’t do it. I can’t love Sterling the way you have called me to and the way I want to. Will you please show me what’s wrong? Please change my heart and love Sterling through me as only You can. Thank You, Lord, that you are going to help me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
As Ruby got up from her knees, a thought occurred to her. “I always am harder on Sterling because I’ve made a habit of getting upset at him. I’ve made it a thought pattern to think bad of him even if I don’t say anything. What if every time I have a negative thought about Sterling, I replace that thought by thanking the Lord for two positive things about Sterling. He really is a good big brother, I’ve just made it a habit to focus on the negative things.”
Ruby’s heart grew light, and she thanked the Lord for giving her this idea. She knew that she had been trying to love on her own and could see now that it would never work. True love could only come from God Who is love. She had to have Him loving through her.
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
1 John 4:7-8
“Ruby, do you have a minute?” Sterling’s voice sailed out of the kitchen. With a prayer in her heart, Ruby went toward the call.
“What do you want, Sterling?”
Sterling held a jar of peanut butter in one hand and a measuring cup in the other. “I’m in the mood for some peanut butter brownies and thought you might want to help.”
Ordinarily, Ruby would probably have said no and gone back to her schoolwork, but she took this as an opportunity from God and quickly agreed.
And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
1 John 3:23
Mica rushed into the kitchen, his bare feet pattering across the floor. “I want to help.”
Sterling and Ruby were looking down at the cookbook, dividing up who would do what.
“Okay, just a minute,” Ruby said absentmindedly.
“You do the wet ingredients, and I’ll do the dry. Will that work?” Sterling asked.
“Sure.” Immediately Ruby thought, “There he goes again, telling me what to do.” Then she realized that she had just had a negative thought about Sterling – already. She took a deep breath. “Dear Lord, thank you that Sterling is such a good brother. Thank you that he likes to spend time with me and that He loves you and seeks to please you.”
Ruby turned back to the cookbook. “Let’s see. You measure the milk into this glass measuring cup, Mica. I’ll get it out of the fridge for you.”
Opening the fridge door, Ruby grabbed the jug of milk and handed it to Mica. She continued standing beside the fridge, staring at the milk jug in Mica’s hands without seeing it. She had just done the same thing as Sterling and the very thing that had irritated her!
As Ruby measured ingredients, poured them into the bowl, and mixed them up, she was thinking. Two of the things that often bothered her about Sterling were him telling her what to do and his clumsy and messy tendencies. What she hadn’t stopped to think about before was that the very things that irritated her were also the things that she did. As a big sister, she often told her younger siblings what to do. And, being clumsy and disorganized were constant struggles for Ruby.
“So that’s why those things bother me,” Ruby mused. “It’s because I do them too, so I naturally notice them in his life. Instead of getting upset, I should be seeking to help him. We can encourage each other in our struggles and point each other to Jesus. And, I shouldn’t get upset when he tells me what to do. He’s probably not doing it to be bossy anymore than I am when I direct Amber and Mica.”
“Hey, Ruby.” Sterling snapped her out of her thoughts. “How long are you going to mix that batter? I have the pan sprayed.”
She grinned at him. “Well, I could keep mixing while you make the icing.”
He flicked her with the dishtowel he was drying his hands on. “You won’t get out of making icing that easily.”
She laughed and poured the batter into the pan. Sterling was a lot of fun, and she had been missing out on that by letting negative thoughts and feelings build up. Ruby knew that deep love and understanding for her brother wouldn’t come overnight, but with the Lord’s help, it would come.
She popped the pan into the oven and set the timer. By the time they had the kitchen cleaned back up, the brownies were out of the oven and cool enough to ice. Ruby heaped up the creamy, caramel-colored frosting onto the brownies, spreading it evenly with a spatula.
As she finished, she had a sudden inspiration. She went to the pantry to get a bag of white chocolate chips. One at a time, she placed the little chips in the middle of the brownies and formed a heart.
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
1 John 3:16-18
Do you think you can apply any of these ways to love to someone in your life? Which one resonated with you the most?
Until next time, reflect the love of Jesus to everyone He brings into your life!