Last Sunday I decided to crack open the gallon of pink paint my daughter picked for her room and finally get down to putting it on the walls. It’s very pink. For those of you who know my girl this will come as no surprise.

The weather on Sunday was beautiful: the breeze through the window and the warmth of the sun helped to keep me happy as I worked. Cate and one of her best friends lounged on the bed as I painted, keeping me company with their chatter and giggles. The conversation took an interesting turn when they began to discuss what people are “known for doing”, i.e. that person is always doing dishes, or that person is always grumpy, or that person is always watching television. You get the idea. I almost reluctantly asked what I am known for doing, assuming that my worst qualities would be broadcast by those who get to most often see them in action. The room got quiet. I was getting less and less optimistic. Then the friend said, “I’ve got it, you are known for loving Cate”.

My heart swelled.

That thought, that I might be known simply as the one who loves my daughter, made me want to cry. I can get so busy with doing. I could easily be known as the one who never stops, who loves checking things off lists, who really puts the multi in multitasking. Not that my lists don’t contain worthy tasks. It’s just that I don’t want those tasks to define me. I instead want to be known as one who loves deeply and well. As straightforward as that sounds it is far from easy. Loving in the context of relationship is challenging and, well, messy. Loving isn’t just about giving Cate a room with pink walls (though that indeed spoke love to her), it is about caring for her needs, challenging her behaviour when required, holding her when she’s hurt, helping her discover boundaries, teaching her about God and life and loving her neighbour and celebrating the person she both is and coming to be.

I want to be present to Cate in order to love her well. Similarly, I want to be present to my husband, family, friends and community in Parkdale. Sometimes I will do this well, other times I will fail. Fortunately I have discovered that in all of this I am being loved too, despite my too long lists, my missteps and my downright failures. I am invited to receive love as much as I am required to give it. What a beautiful thing.

I will never look at those very pink walls the same way again.