What Does Love Have To Do With Anything?

Photo courtesy of Priscilla du Preez on unsplash

Valentine’s Day.

It’s not all candy, flowers and sentimental doily-edged cards.

It may sound cynical, but this is one of those holidays that has little lasting value. Flowers die. Candy gets eaten. Cards are thrown away.

Yes, numerous engagements happen on Valentine’s Day. And let’s not forget the weddings that take place on February 14 to forever herald the love couples have for each other. A Hallmark movie played out in real life. Romantic love at its finest.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge proponent of love. But the reality of exclusion from activities that mark the celebration of this holiday, if there isn’t a “significant other” in someone’s life, is limiting. Unnecessary exclusivity. Like belonging to a privileged club where those who’d love to join can’t because they don’t have their “plus one”.

In elementary school, everyone had to have a card for every member of the class to hand out on this day. We girls would tease each other about which kids got the really mushy lovey-dovey cards from a guy, each of us secretly hoping we’d be one of the privileged few.

That changed when my kids experienced their own Valentine’s challenges. No longer an “everyone” holiday, people (read “guys”) could buy flowers in school and have them delivered to their chosen Valentine in class. I knew some parents also sent a flower to their child, so one year John and I had ones sent our kids.

Never again.

The level of humiliation from receiving a flower from your parents was exponentially worse than receiving no flower at all.

Pity posies.

When John and I were first married, he was gracious with gifts of flowers on Valentine’s Day and randomly at other times during the year. Then our kids came along. Our budget was stretched past the comfort level of such gifts. He wanted to continue the tradition, but being the more frugal of the two, I insisted he stop.

Besides, I hated watching flowers die.

I know many folks who don’t have someone who will share the bounty of love they long to give. Men and women alike who yearn for a special somebody who will see them and love them for who they are. Who will celebrate them and treat them as worthy of love.

We were created to love and be loved. To be seen and known, which is why we are relational. When rejection happens, it’s easy to want to self-protect, to keep people at arm’s length, to try to keep from feeling–hurting.

Of all the relationships we allow in our lives, the one that will satisfy the most is with God. One who loves us completely and knows us fully. One who sees us as worthy of love, even in our darkest, messiest times. A lavish love that is more passionate than we can imagine. Not based on what we do or what we can give God, but what He chooses to do for us. Through Jesus.

It’s love that’s better than a Hallmark Valentine movie.

Better even than chocolate.

 

 

 

 

 

When I Grow Up I’m Gonna Be Something

Landry vigorously stirred the eggs as his dad readied the pan.

“I’m gonna be a chef when I grow up.” His statement was punctuated by his chest–and tummy–thrown out with decisiveness. A life plan. A dream of what he wants to become.

His dad laughed. At not-quite-three, Landry has had many desires of what to be. Everything from a construction worker to a fireman, a policeman to a street sweeper.

That day it was a chef.

He pursues his dream with perspective and investment. He loves toy construction vehicles. While at our home, he’d dump out huge bins of blocks so he could push them around with his plastic bulldozer.

He and his brother Huck can identify just about any construction vehicle on the road. And will quickly correct me if I don’t identify something accurately. I called something a front loader because of the big bucket on the front. Obvious, right? Landry rolled his eyes and said, “It’s an excavator. The bucket is turned the other way.”

Girls don’t get trucks.

When I was a kid, I was pretty focused on what I wanted to become. Two things. A horse trainer, which would let me ride horses to my heart’s content. (I was shy when I was younger, and horses seemed so much kinder than people.) And a writer.

The horse trainer didn’t pan out. I’d thought of pursuing equine therapy in college, helping others with rehabilitation using horses. I was strongly urged to go into education.

Should have stuck by my decision. I taught for a year and found it the most stressful thing ever.

Writing is something I started pursuing about six years ago. I’m shopping around for an agent or publisher to pursue the dream. If I quit trying, the dream dies.

So what do I want to be when I grow up?

One of the best things I get to do with my job as a life coach/missionary is using assessments to help people understand how God has uniquely invested in them–as He has in each one of us–to be able to do amazing things that will actually cause us to thrive. The better we understand how we’ve been created, the more we can focus on using our particular talents in day-to-day living.

I’m a huge proponent of CliftonStrengths and its sister assessment, CoreClarity, for aiding folks in discovering their talents. They demonstrate how God has chosen to invest His character in us. Being created in His image is more than just having the ability to think, emote and relate to others. We each have an inner skill set that drives our passions and perspective.

Assessments gave me words to describe my love for developing people. Which made sense to me–I’m an extrovert who enjoys seeing people grow. I’ve also got more conversation than most people–I have a passion for communication.

We each have inner talents that we can devote time and energy into developing. God-given passions. The greater awareness we have of how God has gifted us, the better chance we have of living with a sense of flourishing.

Who knows? Landry may thrive as a chef.

 

 

 

Is That Little Light Really Shining?

 

I don’t claim to know much about cars.

They’re wonderful modes of transportation to get me where I want to go. I’m a good driver (don’t listen to my husband). And I don’t shake and quake at filling my gas tank. I’ll wash my car when it’s dirty–or drive it through the carwash. And I’ll be responsible for making sure the car has it’s check-up when the little tag on the front window says it’s time.

My husband will take it in.

I have no appreciation for the little lights and gauges that randomly twinkle on the dashboard. Most make no sense. They don’t really look like what they’re supposed to represent.

My tendency is to ignore them.

Not a good idea.

My daughter was driving my car not too long ago and mentioned that this little light was on in the car. I kind of remembered it, but I didn’t think it was a big deal.

She told John. Who took a look at the car. Something to do with the tire pressure that wasn’t quite right. Or appeared to be not right. Being a man, he’s concerned about all lights, so he got it checked, got the tires filled properly at whatever place they do those things, and the light was still on.

Not a problem. He’d been told by a mechanic that the little light was touchy. It could pop on even if the tire pressure was fine.

The lights lie.

A good friend of mine just gave a talk relating to this concept. How our internal gauges reflect how we’re doing, how they make us aware of where we are mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Do those gauges lie as well?

I know what my heart needs are. If I don’t take care of my emotional health as well as physical health, I experience a lack of energy and lose perspective in most areas of life. I need to move when I’m feeling sluggish. Eat better when I’ve been living on coffee and junk food. Enough sleep to refresh myself when my schedule is busy. Opportunity to invest in my intellectual growth by not defaulting to mindless screen time but reading books that will contribute to who I’m becoming.

I also need to be growing spiritually.

We can mask our spiritual gauge with worldly how to’s and deal with our loneliness, despair, and frustration. We’re not merely emotive, physical beings who require food, shelter, and clothing. We’re created for healthy interaction with others, to better understand ourselves and to connect with the One who made us.

I know my limitations. I’m restricted by what I know and physical energy. But I’m cognizant of how vast the universe is and yet how detailed and complicated our lives and world are.

Beyond what we can do.

My heart yearns for Someone who is stronger, purer, better than any person I know or could be. Not as a crutch, but as the real hope of value and lasting significance in an unfair and broken world.

That gauge in my heart?

It reminds me that my relationship with God is foundational to all that I am.

It doesn’t lie.

 

 

Who Loves Ya, Buddy?

The family has slowly drifted away from the wedding festivities to their own homes and routines.

Except for my son and his two oldest boys.

He has another wedding he needs to participate in, and the coming and going again wasn’t working. They’ve hunkered here for a short while. And the boys are getting used to their “other” Nana and Papa.

They are up close and personal with my daughter-in-law’s parents in Pennsylvania. Familiarity breeds trust with kids, and they love their northern Papa and Nana. They’d lived in Austin since the three boys were born, not geographically close to either set of grandparents, so the move north was not only positive for their new business but an encouragement to their family.

John and I, on the other hand, are a bit more unknown to them. They know us and recognize voices by our FaceTime calls, but you can’t cozy up to a picture. Even if it’s talking to you.

With the frenzy of the wedding, people coming and going, cousins they hadn’t seen showing up, a whole new level of expectations settled on their young shoulders.

Anyone can lose themselves in a crowd, even if it’s a crowd of relatives. Lots of laughter and noise, questions asked and answered. Distractions became the norm.

For a short while.

The house has settled. We’re approaching doable normalcy, and we all can slow down a bit.

This is where I’ve seen their hesitancy.

I’m an easy-going person. Kids tend to like me. But my grandsons aren’t sure of me yet. A point made clear when my son left the room to take a shower and the younger of the two boys took off after him, crying, “Don’t leave me!”

I understand what it’s like to be uncomfortable with someone. Getting used to new roommates in college. Moving into new neighborhoods. It’s hard to be all in when I’m not sure if my all in is acceptable. Will they like me? Do I want to like them?

That’s how I began my relationship with God. More than a little fearful of what He could do. He is God after all. Aware that I wasn’t always doing things right. Conscious of my rough areas.

I didn’t know Him. I had a picture in my head of an angry, white-haired, very strong, large man throwing thunderbolts at the things He didn’t like. (Too many Disney movies.)

People I knew and trusted loved Him well. I chose to invest time to get to know Him. To read the Bible and see for myself what He said about Himself. It was easy to discredit someone else’s beliefs, but I had nothing to base disbelief on till I checked Him out myself.

I found God to be good. Trustworthy. Full of love. History and the Bible have explained who He is, how Jesus walked the earth, the reality of His death and resurrection.

Time with Him, though, has made Him more real to me than anything people could say.

If my grandsons choose to get to know me, they’ll see how much I love them.

It takes time. And intentionality.

 

 

Space And Grace To Count The Cost

photo courtesy of Haziq Tumaran on unsplash

I truly love people. An extrovert by nature, my happy place is being with folks I care about.

This disclaimer needed to be made because right now I’m yearning for alone time. Quiet.

Not a typical attitude for me. As a matter of fact, I often get uncomfortable and antsy when I’m alone too long.

This isn’t one of those “The grass is greener on the other side” issues. Where what anyone else has looks better than what I have.

It’s the plethora of people and planning over the last several weeks for a wedding that is now history. A wedding that exceeded my hopes for my daughter. But a period of time that flowed freely with friends and family.

I loved every minute of it.

My exhaustion has taken me by surprise. We’ve had quite a few late nights for family talk, sharing memories, laughter, and interactions that are humorous because people remember differently. Cherished times we share as being part of each other’s lives. Plus there have been those special opportunities interact with friends I’ve not seen for a long time

Quality time with people costs. Being other-focused, deliberately caring, intentionally listening all require an emotional output that can take a toll.

Loving others costs.

I’m feeling that now in mental exhaustion that is affecting my energy. Not one to crave alone time, my less than animated attitude has some asking how I’m feeling.

I’m fine. Truly grateful for all the people and activities that have populated my life of late.

There is, however, a weariness that lingers. The kind where too much coffee which seems like a good idea at the moment actually makes me feel rotten several moments later. And no more alert.

It’s not caffeine I’m craving.

It’s time to be still. To make space in my life to appreciate what has happened and to focus on the matters before me now.

I’m not an internal processor. I fare better when I’m voicing my ideas to others–my talking clarifies my thinking.

It’s not merely thinking time I need.

I need space for my soul to rest. A time to embrace what has been so I may learn from and appreciate what I’ve experienced. The opportunity to consider what comes next with what I’ve learned.

Soul care.

In our very loud and animated world, contemplative time is counterintuitive. Time to consider the person I’m becoming, why I’m here, what my purpose is in life, how I’m impacting those around me–those don’t provide instant payoffs.

Jesus loves all people. His time spent here was typically surrounded by a crowd. He cared for them, healed them, loved them.

He needed alone time as well. To be still and listen to His Father’s voice, to be in His presence. It was the alone times that gave him the energy to continue ministering to needy people. Time of interaction with His Father that moved Him to take the punishment for the sins of the world.

If Jesus, God in the flesh, took time to be alone to pray and think, who am I to think I don’t?