new growth

I’ve noticed something rather ugly things coming out of me lately.  It seems to be getting worse.  It’s gotten glaring enough that even I can’t deny that there’s *something* going on…but unfortunately, I’ve not known exactly what, or what to do about it.

No, they aren’t physical…like warts or anything.

They are emotional, and they are spiritual.  They are my responses to people and situations in my life.  And they come from someplace deep inside.

It’s like sometimes I can step back, away from myself, and watch.  I watch my own words, interactions, and responses.  And I think…

“Whoa.  Step away from that girl!  She is full on scary-crazy.”

(And, I confess, I edited down what I really thought…because I know that a certain variety of words might offend some of my more delicate readers…but let’s just say what I really though about my brand of ‘crazy’ involved bat-poo.)

I witness my own actions and wonder what on earth is going on with me.  I know the emotions I feel…but I don’t actually *know* them.  I should say, I feel them…I experience them…but I still have wondered what they are.

Over the years, my ‘crazy’ has surfaced in a variety of settings.  My marriage, my church leadership, my parenting.  Even my friendships.  I get very prickly, and mouthy.  I can feel my heart race, my blood rushing, and I feel panicky.  I slam gears into defensive mode.

The intensity of these types of reactions has ebbed and flowed.  It used to be a lot worse; I dealt with some issues that seemed to be underlying, and in many ways it got better.

But seasons are always changing, my friends.  And with new seasons come new situations.  Things we never experienced before.  New emotions surface.  Sometimes the reactions happen before I am even able to identify what on earth is going on.

It seems I’m currently in a season with lots of ‘triggers’…  Depending on who you ask, living with me, I’m guessing, might feel a bit like a leisurely stroll through a field of landmines.  It seems I can go from ‘pleasant’ to ‘bring-it, sucka’ in about 2.5 seconds.

My, *ahem*, ‘overreactions’ have been pointed out to me on enough occasions that even I could no longer deny it’s probably time to look a little deeper at what’s going on.

Some friends/mentors of mine suggested some prayer exercises they’ve done, and while I will admit, it is VERY difficult for me to actually get very quiet, still and focus…I am finding them to be helpful.  So I decided to share them, in a brief, general overview, with you.

Now, please…if you are from a more conservative tradition, please take a moment to breath, not freak out thinking I’m talking about anything new age here, or going off into any heresies.  What I’m talking about is actually quite biblical.  So just stick with me.

The idea is to calm yourself completely, and allow yourself to become aware of what is going on…what is REALLY going on inside you.  Since there are certain situations I know I’m specifically struggling with, I chose to focus on those.  I tried to get past all the ‘facts’ of the situation, and allow myself to look at what my actual feelings are.  What am I actually experiencing that is causing my reactions?  I asked God to reveal my own heart to me, my own motives, and shine the light of His Truth into places that I might be unaware of.

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When I did this, I was rather surprised at what I found.  Where I could see myself reacting, thinking it was because of ‘this’ or ‘that’…because so-and-so did such-and-such…it turned out that, when it really came down to the bottom line, I could see my reactions were out of two things.  Fear and confusion.

Because of the nature of the situations, I can’t share the specifics, but let me just say, I wouldn’t have readily thought myself afraid or confused.  Annoyed, yes.  Hurt, yes.  Angry…definitely.  But as I asked God to reveal the Truth to me, I was able to get beyond those surface reactions and see more deeply into the ‘why’ of what was taking place in my heart.  

Next, the general idea is to invite and welcome the Holy Spirit into those places…the places where I now understood were driven by fear and confusion.  The situations where I find myself in an automatic reaction before I have time to give a thought to what’s happening.  It’s choosing to acknowledge the real and vital work of the Holy Spirit in my life, and opening myself up and welcoming Him to the places that I’ve walled off, kept as untouchable, or hidden…even from myself.  To see what is really going on and understand it to be a thing that might even be beyond my own changing…but in need of God’s transforming touch.

Let me say, as I felt the reality of my own fear and confusion in these situations, this next step was no small thing.  Self-protection is instinct, and I don’t know about you, but it’s a strong one in me.

This particularly hard part is one of surrender.  It’s choosing to say, from a place of honesty within my spirit…

“I let go of my desire for power and control.

I let go of my desire for approval, esteem, and affection.

I let go of my desire for security and survival.

I let go of my desire to change the situation.”

It’s another step in giving Jesus true lordship in my life.  It’s good and healthy.

And phenomenally hard.

To be completely honest…I still haven’t gotten through this step yet.  I get hung up here.  I’m scared to say, in all sincerity, that I am ready or willing to let go of some of those.  I want to say it…but I know, I’m just not meaning it yet.

But you know what…thankfully, Jesus is willing to walk with me.  I can tell He’s very gently prying my squeezed little fist open from clinging to these things.  When I get all the way up to this step in my prayers…I cry a little, and say,

“I just don’t think I can mean it yet, Jesus.”

And He says…

“It’s okay…I’ll wait here with you.”

You see, He’s not in a rush.  He’s in this journey with me for the long-haul.  He doesn’t want my lip-service to the things I know I should say or do or think.  He wants my sincere heart.  All of it.  And He’s gentle enough, and patient enough, and long-suffering enough to hang with me for the whole process of giving it to him.  You know how I know this?  Because His Word tells me what love is…

Love is patient and kind….rejoices whenever truth wins out… Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.  - from 1 Cor. 13

And it also tells me that He Himself IS love, so it stands to reason that He is the embodiment of these things, and displays them toward me.  I don’t need to be afraid of Him, or afraid He will abandon me in my struggles…because He said He won’t.

I’m a work in process.  It’s an ongoing, albeit sometimes slow, process…but He’s working on me.  And in me.  And He’s helping me see and walk through the things I just can’t on my own.

Because He’s good like that.

In the meantime, when my landmines get stepped on, I can at least see now what is at play.  I can take a breath, and whisper to Jesus that I need His help.  And each time that I do that, I can tell I’m at least a little closer to fully surrendering this part of me to Him.

And growth, even when it’s in the fragile, budding stages, just like the springtime flowers and trees just starting to sprout…feels refreshing to my very soul.

It’s a beautiful thing to watch the rebirth of life out my window, and know that the same is happening in my heart.

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stay engaged

I’ve lamented in the past about the lack of blogging by parents of older kids/tweens/teens.  As I read blog after blog by dear women in the throes of diapering, teething and sleepless nights, I often could identify with sympathy, but wondered, for my own wrestling mama struggles…”Where are MY people?  Is anyone else in this season??

Of late, I’ve read an increasing number of answers to my heart-cry, and I’m soothed by the fact that they are mostly saying what I’m finding to be my own reality.  At least I’m not alone.  And apparently, what I’m experiencing is normal.  *whew!*

I’m hearing “We’re here!  We’re in the trenches too!“.  But it kind of has to almost stop there because our kids are basically, like…ya know…‘people’ now.  They have thoughts, opinions and lives they don’t want discussed all over the internet.  Just like all those bath time baby pictures we once took, which now mortify them…they don’t want their personal lives being fodder for anyone’s amusement, assessment or anything else.

I respect that.  I’ve learned the importance of asking before I share a funny anecdote or  dinnertime quote, or post a pic that I find endearing or cute. (By the way, the LAST thing middle school boys want to be is “endearing” or “cute”.  If you have boys approaching this stage, you might want to just tuck that tidbit away for later.)

I don’t talk specifically about their struggles, their growth, or even (for the most part) their victories or successes.  (OK, so a mama likes to brag just a teensy bit every now and then…)  I’m not saying I never mention them on Facebook or my blog (obviously), but I’ve learned a LOT about what they are okay with me saying, and when to “zip it” about what’s going on in our lives.

However, that all being said, I also still value every crumb of encouragement that I stumble upon from others who are in the same season.  I treasure every little mama (or dad!) voice, like me, sort of whispering “Yup…can’t say what, exactly, but lots of ‘the same’ goin’ on over here!!  Stay strong, sister (or bro)!

And so I thought I’d throw out my thoughts today as contribution to the ‘Anonymous Parents of Emerging People’ group, in hopes that you, like me, will read and say “Oh yes…good, I think/feel/experience that too!  I’m so glad I’m not alone!

I will keep them in very broad, general tones…not saying any of these apply to any specific of my own children… (ahem).  ;)

I’m finding one of the absolute keys to this stage of life…albeit a very difficult one…is to stay engaged.  I may have said this before (I’m quite sure I have), but it’s something I need to remind myself almost daily.  When I’m overwhelmed by schedules, and taxiing, and conversations and decisions…I literally say to myself,

“Stay engaged!!  This is critical…just stay engaged.”

Let me explain what I mean by staying engaged.

I mean going below whatever the situation seems to be on the surface.  Oh, how much easier (and by easy I mean still utterly crazy-tiring) it would be to focus on all the surface business!!  The laundry, the running, the to-dos, the homework.  But the real deal of parenting is going on below the surface of each of those things.  The character training, the faith-owning, the hurt-healing, the life-lessons….it’s all entangled in things that look like ‘things’.

I’m learning that I could skim by, and we could ‘survive’.  We could ‘get through‘ whatever the next thing is…school work, sports seasons, permission slips, sleepovers, chores, friend drama, etc.  We can deal with every single thing, on the surface, and as I’m realizing, the years go by (oh so fast) and we have unknowingly completely missed the real opportunities that each of those things contains.  They look, on the surface, like all the stuff that life is made of…but really, they are just the shell of the real stuff.

When I’m actually engaging, wow…those things are so much more.  They are rich, fertile ground for planting and growing all sorts of lifelong treasures.

Chores are less about getting the toilets and sinks cleaned, and more about teaching them to take responsibility.  It’s about teaching/modeling stewardship of things, and the value of some hard work.  It’s also about learning (as parents) how to chill out when things aren’t done to our ‘standards’.  It’s ok.

Sleepovers aren’t just about watching movies (and us parents being forced to hide in our room as they take over the house!), they are about a natural opportunity to build relationships and get to know our kids’ friends around the breakfast table.  We get to learn their interests and see their sense of humor.  We get sympathize with their parents over grocery bills.  ;)

Drive time to appointments, friend’s houses, practices and games are actually built-in conversation time…so long as I don’t check out, crank the radio, and let everyone slip into their own virtual, iPod world.  (Though, regularly, I do find cranking the radio and rocking out together in the car a perfectly acceptable and healthy form of engagement!!)

‘Drama’ with friends, teammates, teachers, etc. is all ripe with opportunity for dialogue about how to deal with conflict, love unconditionally, show respect, and even teaching them to do the very thing I’m trying to do…look beyond the words or reactions, and really try to hear someone’s heart.  Seek out the ‘why’.  Go deeper.

Let me also clarify…I’m so not ‘nailing’ this.  I’m learning it.  I’ve already lost some time, and some ground.  Thankfully, I’m faith-filled that God happens to love my kids even more than I, and I’m asking Him, out of his goodness and faithfulness to cover my shortcomings, and help me to see opportunities to make up for where I’ve fallen short, and to do better next time.

Because even in my failings, there’s opportunity to engage.  I can teach repentance, I can teaching owning our mistakes, and the value of saying I’m sorry.

Nothing is wasted when we are engaged.

So, I’m trying.  I’m growing.  I’m having some “a-ha” moments, and a lot of “shoot…I totally blew that!” moments.

And hopefully, while I’m trying to find this delicate balance of transparency of my own journey and respectful deference of the privacy of my kids, you might find some camaraderie and encouragement too.  Hang in there…from what I hear, we will survive this…and so will our kids!!  (I guess we, as former adolescents, are living proof, right?)  ;)

faith for no miracle

Today I find myself laid up on the couch, with sinuses that feel like over-filled balloons stuffed into my head, and I think they are about to burst.  I’ve been battling this head cold all week.  And by battling, I mean, ignoring, medicating, and trying to go on as normal, wishing and hoping and praying this thing would just. go. away.

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Let me state right up front, before I get into my real point of this post, that I am a firm believer in miracles, and that I actually do believe God can, and does, heal.  In fact, as a wide-eyed, faith-filled nine year old, in a small country church, I went forward at a prayer meeting to ask for God to heal me of asthma that had become more than a mild annoyance in my young life.  And you know what…I was healed.  From that time on, no longer did every cold turn into a wheezing, chest-itching, raspy event.  It simply didn’t happen any more.   And it became a very clear touch-point for me, in my faith, that whenever I doubted God, I knew I could look back to that time and say I saw God answer prayer, and there was no other explanation besides His intervention.

I also have known personally many others who have experienced miraculous, and sometimes quite dramatic healings.  The kind that leave doctors baffled, and without explanation.  So suffice it to say, I’m not a ‘skeptic’ or one who thinks there’s an ‘explanation’ behind every reported miracle.  I am a faith-filled person, who knows that God works in mysterious and unexplainable ways.

However, all that to say…I also believe that God is very much at work in everyday, ordinary, totally explainable ways.  

I believe that God designed the universe…and everything in it…with great precision, care and detail.  I’m not at all a big fan of science (largely because my brain doesn’t do well wrapping around such concepts)…but I’m certainly intelligent enough to understand that there are processes by which the world functions.  I understand that there are such things as cause and effect, such laws as gravity, and there are many things that are set into place to work according to plan.

Take for instance, the human body.  It’s simply a fact that there are processes such as growth, repair and deterioration that happen within it.  We have an understanding of sickness in relation to germs,  bacteria, etc.  We have a knowlege of things that help in the healing process and how to use medicine (as a science).  Which brings me to the thoughts I’m pondering today.

There’s nothing wrong with asking God for miraculous healings…but I think sometimes we need to think a bit more practically and also realize there is nothing wrong with working in conjunction with the intentional design that God already put into place.  And we also would do well to understand the simple ’cause and effect’ principles at play when we work AGAINST His design.

This week I was in a meeting where a minister offered prayer for healing.  One thing he specifically mentioned was for sinus issues.  I wrestled with myself over why I didn’t even bother to ask for the healing.  Was I utterly faithless?  Was I too much of a cynic to think God could heal my ailing body?  I didn’t think so…but neither did I feel in the least bit compelled to ask God for an immediate release from my struggle.

As that was several days ago now, and I’m still battling this annoying burning, pressure, running nose and all the other lovely aches and pains of a head cold, something finally dawned on my (occasionally slow to ‘get it’) brain.  Part of the reason I didn’t ask for a ‘miracle’, was simply because deep down I knew, it wasn’t really what I needed.  What I really need is to take better care of myself.  Instead of asking God to ‘fix’ the gift he’s given me, and I’ve contributed to the breakdown of (being, my body)…I think instead God was working on me taking responsibility.  I have been eating terribly, and driving my body without rest or care.  When I’m tired, instead of resting/sleeping…I pump in more caffeine.  When I’m hungry, instead of reaching for something rich in nutrients that aid in my body’s health processes, I grab candy or chips or whatever appeals to the tastebuds in the moment.

Now, as a parent, when my children behave this way…carelessly, knowing the right things to do, but ‘opting out’ for a lazier, more irresponsible way…it drives me crazy.  I feel like I am constantly harping on them about how much better things will last or work if they just take a little bit of time to care for them!

A prime example is electronic devices.  In this house, they are a-plenty…computers, iPods,cell phones, etc.  I have said COUNTLESS times “Don’t leave that there, it’ll get broken!!” or “Don’t carry it that way, you’ll drop it!” or “Don’t sit that laptop on the couch, it will overheat!”  But alas, still, I walk into a bedroom and see an iPod on the floor, or a laptop on the living room couch, or a phone carelessly tossed somewhere.  It’s not just electronics…it could be anything.  And in my head, I run through the scenario.  This ‘thing’ is going to be misused, broken, and then will begin the whining…  There will be panic over the out-of-commission item, and a flurry of searching for how to fix or replace it.  And then the sad realization settled in…

I’m no different.

I am fully aware that our bodies are created to run optimally on some basic principles of good nutrition, exercise and rest.  Yup, heard it all time and again.  Just exactly how my kids feel about my regular lectures.  And yet I ignore it, and find myself bearing the consequences.

Hear me out…I’m not AT ALL saying that all sickness or infirmity or disease is self-inflicted.  Most certainly not!!  Frankly, often the things we suffer seemingly come out of nowhere and are no fault of our own.  In those times and circumstances, often there is little to do BUT pray for a miracle.  And I am 200% in agreement, and fully filled with faith that God is willing and able.

But I am saying, in my specific instance this week, with this particular struggle, I think there’s an aspect of responsibility I need to step up and take.  I am saying that sometimes, God would rather help us learn lessons, and grow in maturity that will reap long-term benefits instead of providing us with a quick-fix.  Just like any good parent tries to do.  He’s not out there saying “Sorry, Jess…I really don’t want you to feel well, so I’m just gonna sit back and watch you suffer this one out…”  I believe He doesn’t want any of His children to suffer…just as I don’t want my children to suffer, and would love for them to have the best of things.  But there’s also an aspect of learning to handle the best.  Sometimes, I have to allow them to suffer a bit in order to learn and grow.  I believe they will value more the good things in life if they learn to step up and take responsibility.  If God intervenes in a miraculous way every time I have a sniffle, I am quite likely to never learn to eat better, choose to take a walk instead of veg-out in front of the TV, or actually go to bed when I’m tired…because I’ll just cry for a bail-out instead.

The same can probably be said for countless scenarios…from finances to relationships.  Everything works better, and we reap great returns, when we do things according to the way God advises.  When we spend carelessly, treat others poorly or handle any life situation with irresponsibility or with instant gratification as the overriding force…we will tend to see poor results, and will likely suffer some degree of discomfort, struggle or consequence.

I have a firm and ever-growing belief that God is very holistic.  He not only wants our physical good…but even moreso our spiritual good. Sometimes, when we don’t see Him ‘working’…He is actually very much at work…but it may be on a different thing than what we are looking for.  He may not give us the quick fix we are pleading for…just like I will not provide a new iPod when one gets dropped or stepped on.  There would be no lesson learned.

I am happy to be realizing, I am not, in fact, faithless…I am actually learning to grow in trusting that God will and is providing all that I need…but maybe…just maybe…He knows better WHAT I need than I do.  Maybe I don’t need a miracle, but rather, a lesson.

And that being said, I’m going to thank God for what He is teaching me through my sinuses today.  And I’m also going to go ahead and plop myself on the couch for some rest, sip some tea and other remedies, and try to remember to work WITH God’s plans, and not against them.

“too”

My husband has taught me so much about God.

I’m not talking about in a Bible study, or through sermons, (though yes, on occasion, that too)…but I’m talking about his character.  The way we interact.  The way he loves me.  Don’t get me wrong; I don’t have any grand illusions that my husband is the ‘perfect man’ ;) (darn good thing, since I’m so terribly far from being the perfect woman…so that would be a horrendous mess!)…and I don’t think that because ‘Todd’ rhymes with ‘God’ that he is the next thing to Him.

One of the reasons that we are together is because Todd became my ‘safe place’ many, many years ago.  Before we ever dated or had any thoughts of romance (well…at least, before *I* had any thoughts of romance…he might have a different perspective!), we were best friends.  I slowly found acceptance in our relationship…I could allow myself to just be…well…myself.  I didn’t have to act a certain way, or pretend to be anything I wasn’t.

Let me tell you our story.

Todd would tell you he had ‘eyes for me’, from the first day we met, but had resigned himself to ‘just friends’, since initially I didn’t reciprocate.  After a long while, and a open and honest, and occasionally tumultuous friendship, I had a revelation.  I was in love with this guy…not merely attracted to, but actually loved.  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  And I think that I knew it was love because I had no fear of being with him.  I could simply be me…the good, the bad, and the ugly…and it wasn’t too much for him.   He handled it all.  I was overcome with emotion at this realization.

I remember the day like it was yesterday…  We had spent the morning together at a pancake breakfast, and our conversation and interaction was easy, like always.  He told me about a girl he planned to ask out for a date.  Somewhat surprisingly to me, it caused a severe knot in my gut to hear this.  It shouldn’t have, since all through our friendship, I had dated other guys…but it did.  (I know, I know…I don’t want to hear about my cruelty to him in the early days…I’ve spent the past 24 years making up for it, okay??)  :)

After I dropped him off at his house, and started to drive away, I began bawling uncontrollably.  My heart was pounding out of my chest, and I felt a near panicked need to tell him that he couldn’t possibly date anyone else, because…I loved him!  I turned the car around and went back to his house.  I’ve actually never asked my now-sister in law what she thought when I showed up at the door, tear streaked face, asking to see Todd. (I’m not sure I really want to know…and by now, I’m guessing she’s forgotten about that day, as it was probably not as impactful to her as it was to me.)

Todd came out and stared at me, a bit dumbfounded, as I sobbed out my declaration of love, right there in his parents’ driveway.  It took him two days to come back to me saying that he did, in fact, want to be my boyfriend.  (For someone who supposedly had wanted me all along, I’m still not sure that he didn’t do this just for kicks, enjoying knowing he had me dangling on a string!)

I tell you all that to say this…

What kind of 16 year old guy stares at a girl, in a full on ugly cry, declaring her love after seemingly rejecting his for so long, and doesn’t turn and run for the hills?

What on earth was this poor guy thinking??  And look at what children we were!!!

What on earth was this poor guy thinking?? And look what CHILDREN we were!!!

The kind that is the exact man that God knew I needed, not only to be my partner in life, but also so that I could better understand His character.  I’m quite convinced that God’s intent for our marriage is very multipurposed.

From day one of my relationship with Todd, I did nothing but be “too” something.  Initially I was too preoccupied.  Maybe too presumptuous, maybe too coy.  Too needy. I was probably too immature and too impulsive.  I was certainly too emotional, too intense and just generally, all the way around…too much.

And yet, never once, in the whole 25 years of our relationship has he ever said I was too much.  In fact, over the years, on more than one occasion, he’s actually had to tell me that’s it’s okay…he can handle me.  Because one of my deepest fears is just that…that I’m too much.  The most reassuring moments I’ve had with him are when I’m in a complete freak out of some sort, and he holds me tight and says “Jess, I can handle you.”  

And not only that, the things that I think are “too”, he oftens says are the very things he loves about me.  Honestly, this baffles me.  It just seems crazy.

But here’s where the God part comes in.

Over the years, I’ve often felt that same “too-something” feeling in my relationship with God.  I’m too worrisome.  I’m too undisciplined.  I’m too overbearing (you know, one of ‘those’ women…or so my annoying little inner voice tries tell me every now and again).  I have too many doubts, fears, insecurities.  I’m too dumb or naive or weak.  I push the line a little too much.  Whatever it is, I’m constantly battling the “too”.

And then I remember…Todd can handle me.  And for goodness sake, if this mere mortal of a man can (and I must say, he’s done a pretty good job over the years!!)…how much more the Almighty God.  Again…I’m not comparing God/Todd.  But I am saying, I’m pretty convinced that God chose Todd to be my husband to give me a flesh-and-bones example of His love for me.  

To remind me that I’m NOT, in fact, too-anything.

That I’m wired and designed the way God intended, and he gives me permission to ‘bring it’.  There are no questions too big, no secrets too scary, no too many doubts that it makes God skittish.

No matter how many “toos” I have or am…He is more than able to take it .  All of it.  He can handle me without even getting winded.  I’m guessing, he probably even smiles.

I think I’m starting to actually believe this, because I’ve heard a real, human voice tell me that he loves my “toos”…and if he does, surely my Maker must.

Today, I am definitely hearing the whisper of His voice to my heart…right smack in the middle of my worries, my tears, my fears and my doubts…telling me…

“I can handle you, Jess.”

What sweet relief.

But please…don’t mistake my intent in sharing all this.  I’m not trying to brag, or say we have the perfect marriage.  Far from it!!  Like everyone else, we have our highs and lows.  It can get REAL ugly around here too.  In fact, this really isn’t about me or Todd or our marriage at all.  This is my point…God uses people in our lives to show us about Himself.  For me, it happens to be my husband.  But I’m convinced, in different ways, God is revealing Himself to us through people all the time.

Who is it that you feel most comfortable with in the world?  Maybe a friend, a parent, a sister, a child.  Who loves you in all your ugliness?  Who puts up with your annoying habits?  Who watches you make a mess of things, and loves you anyway or holds you when you cry?  Think of that person, and realize…the very best of them is only a glimmer of God’s love and faithfulness for you.  He’s likely put that very person in your life so that you can know a taste of all His feelings for you.  He wants you to experience love, but then also understand that what he offers is infinitely better.  We humans are created in His image so that we can give some flesh and bones right here on earth to testify to who and how He is.

And in case you’re having trouble hearing or seeing…then take this as your personal ‘message’…  You.are.loved.  Just the way you are.  Whether you think you’re too much, or not enough…you are accepted.  God can handle you.  There is no question, doubt, worry or ugly-cry that is going to scare Him off.  He won’t run for the hills on you.

I promise. But more importantly…

He promises.

for the sap and for the cynic

Ah, February 14.  The day when all the creative and romantic types soar to the heights of who they were meant to be, while all the single, hurt and cynical folks want to shoot arrows at things…and they aren’t the sweet, little, heart-shaped, cupid-style ones either.

I personally find myself somewhere in the middle.  I have potential to be slightly creative when I really put my mind, and a lot of effort, to it.  But I really do get the ‘anti’ side of Valentine’s Day too.  If you aren’t naturally and effortlessly creative, hopelessly romantic or passionately in love I can see how this day would be really annoying at best, or salt in a wound, at worst.

However, I do usually try to kick myself in the butt to make some sort of effort on this holiday, because when you really think about it, ‘Love’, in the grand scheme of things, is actually important.  We all have SOMEONE that we love, and that loves us, and if we think of this day as a day to celebrate TRUE LOVE, (and not just cliche sappiness) we can all find some appreciation in such a day.

The focus may need to shift a bit, though.

Mute the stupid “every kiss begins with Kay” commercials in your brain, and turn off the looping images of teddy bears, hearts, wine and chocolates.  Tear down the expectations for a moment.

Instead, think of the importance of love in our lives…whether it’s for a spouse, a child, or a friend.  Think of the things that comprise REAL love.  And remember, the world, without love, is a rather bleak picture.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.  If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere.

So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

 Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies.   ~from 1 Corinthians 13, The Message

I’m not saying you have to spend money, decorate your house or flood the day with hearts.

But I will say, take the time to demonstrate real love today.

Put up with something just a bit more than normal.  Give a compliment when you want to say something cutting.  Choose to overlook an offense.  Forgive a careless slight.  Go out of your way to do something for someone, and expect nothing in return.

Exercise the real love muscles.

Because love is what we’re meant for, what we’re made for.  Not romance, not frivolity (though those things are fine)…but real, deep, abiding, enduring love.

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The kind you can know whether you are single or coupled, young or old, male or female.

We’re made in the image of a God who identifies himself as Love.  

Love is where it’s at.

So maybe…just a thought…go ahead and set aside the cynicism, as well as the schmaltz, and just love.

For real.