Tag: love

perfect love

Over the last few days, I’ve had opportunity to learn a lot about myself. It’s amazing to me that at my age, with my breadth of experiences, and as self-reflective as I have always been can still be discovering such major things about myself. But there it is. A series of unrelated incidences left me in a little emotional puddle for a few days, and after I was done wallowing in my own hurt feelings, God showed me a hard truth:

I still need to learn how to love.

It’s not that I don’t know the mechanics of it. I read The Five Love Languages when I was 20ish, and I have not forgotten them, and I can identify them pretty well, too. And I know how to be a friend… to cook the dinner, pick out the gift, give the huge hug, kiss the baby, remember the name of your great-grandma’s neighbor’s dog, but those are really just tasks. Niceties. They’ll do for awhile, but they have nothing to do with the manifestation of God’s love, which goes like this:

i John 3/The Message:

18-20 My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.

21-24 And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God! We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said, doing what pleases him. Again, this is God’s command: to believe in his personally named Son, Jesus Christ. He told us to love each other, in line with the original command. As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us.

~
Can you imagine what it would be like to be free from condemnation? To be free from looking down on yourself for every little mistake and shortcoming… to be free from a critical eye toward others who are struggling in their journeys as well? I’d like to stop imagining it and start living it.

My whole life, I have loved as a defense mechanism. I have loved with either lofty expectations or with willingness to be destroyed in the name of love. None of that is part of God’s plan for perfect love. That kind of love gives power to the wrong entities. That kind of love asks for something in return that can only be given by God. That kind of love will never be satisfied. That kind of love always – always! – results in a broken heart, no matter to whom it is given.

But God’s love…oh, God’s love~

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…”

That verse (1 John 4:18) goes on to say that fear involves torment…torment! Who needs that? Who willingly inflicts that upon herself?

If perfect love is waiting to be opened like an elaborately-wrapped birthday present that you know will be just as exciting once opened as it is sitting before you waiting… why not receive it? Unwrap that thing and claim it and treasure it forever!

~

Nothing dramatic has happened in my life to bring me on this latest journey. Oh sure, circumstances always occur around us. People I care very deeply about are hurting or searching right now. And I… well… it’s the story of me to always be wondering if I am good enough, if I am doing the right things, if I am being productive or as we say in Christianese, “bearing fruit.” But John’s lovely first letter is being carved in my heart this week. Instead of looking outward at how love fails us, I am looking inward, where long ago I invited my Savior to live, and I am learning how He loves us… oh! How He loves US!

{I admit, this song drives me a little crazy in its junior-high-poetry-somewhat-overdoneness, but perhaps God is just that dramatic… and if I’m going to drown, may it be in an ocean of grace…}

a Target kind of love

This post is neither sponsored by or affiliated with Target, though I think that would be awesome.

How do you make Valentine’s Day festive for your family when:
– your littles have already overdosed on treats from school, church, and their (generous) grandparents?
– you are no longer newlyweds but parents of a kid in college and preschoolers (broke and tired)?

For us, it was a snowballing idea. It started with me having a few project-less days this week to make big homemaking kind of plans, like a steakhouse-ish dinner and fancy dessert: (actually, all this stuff was really simple):


baked potato toppings

iron skillet broiled steak

my plate…yummy!

almost 9 months here…I unpacked the good candlestick holders!

guacamole didn’t go with everything else, but it’s KK’s favorite…

randa asked for seconds!

Rod said it was “THE best ever!” steak. Woohoo!

Fancy dinner, check.

We’d also decided to *finally* take the girls to Target to spend their Christmas gift card from Uncle Rick (pictured from his visit in June)

We were in the door no more than two minutes when Daddy had to take Kaity to the bathroom…because she was misbehaving. With her birthday coming, she has a big case of the Gimmes combined with symptoms of The Whopping Whine, so Daddy needed to get her attention and remind her to Just. Be. Grateful.

(to be fair, he’s had to remind me of that a few times lately as well).

I perused the dollar bins and limited myself to one package of cards. I love sending mail. Have I mentioned that?

Then Randa and I strode down the party aisle to look, in vain, for Spider Man party plates for KK’s fiesta. I think it needs to be a combo year. Spider Man Cake? Auntie Rona is all over that. Spider Man pinata? Mamaw and Grandpa are on it. But Toy Story cake plates and accessories will be present as well. Our Kaity…she is nothing if not diverse.

While we waited for KK and Daddy, we glanced over at a huge empty section of floor. Our Myrtle Beach Target is preparing for something our Homewood Target accomplished about a year and a half ago: fresh groceries. Hoorah for MB Target! And horrah for Miranda, who decided to dance:

…and was almost immediately joined by a sweet new “friend”~

who said: “I want to spin, too” and called Randa her friend. That little girl has one awesome future ahead of her!

~

One of the things that makes me smile in a big, heart-burst-with-love kind of way is when my girls talk, well, like me. KK, for example, properly uses adverbs more than many adults. “I want it badly!” “I’ll do it quickly!” Have I mentioned she’ll be four next week? She rocks my English-degree world.

When we caught up with each other and walked to the movie section, the girls’ conversation with each other included the words “disappointed” and “several.” I just love the way they talk!

When we reached the movies, we began the delicate negotiation. the movie *I* wanted them to pick was Lady and The Tramp, released from its cell, er, the Disney vault, for a short time. The girls have seen and enjoyed it, but weren’t showing much interest. AND, Target’s price was 32.99. Nuh-uh. Not when I can get it $10 cheaper on Amazon, gift card or no.

As the dance of “let them pick whatever crap they want” versus “guide them lovingly and manipulatively toward something cheaper/higher quality/less annoying” commenced, (let us all note here that there is not much MORE annoying than a Barbie movie, and Randa wants them all) this was the scene:

KK: Look! Look what I found! (proudly holds out the original Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, the enthusiasm for which we have Paige to blame. I kind of hate it myself).

Randa: I don’t really care for that movie. The boat scene freaks me out!

KK: Then close your eyes!

– commence Mommy and Daddy cracking up in the aisle, while KK threw her choice in the cart along side Barbie: Mermaid Tale.

Regarding our Valentine’s plans, one of my best friends paid me a super-lovely compliment:

And for the record, you ROCK at making any and every occasion festive!

She likely has no idea just how much that compliment means to me. I worry so much about making things special for my kids because I am still feeling the stress and emptiness of having moved so far from all that was dear and familiar to them. And in spite of most people telling me “They’re kids! They’re resilient!” and in spite of them having so much fun with the lives they currently have, including preschool and occasional impromptu trips to the beach, they feel their losses. In particular, they miss their brother and sister, their Gramma and Papa, their little (and big) cousins, their aunts and uncles, and their friends. They miss their old house and the places we used to go, whether it’s the library or our church or the park across the street. Do they experience the loss like I do? Perhaps not. But when they ask to Skype their friends or to fly and go see them, this mama’s heart knows they are feeling it.

So I strive to create joy even as I am striving to choose joy for myself. A little fancier dinner than usual…a few more sweets than usual… a trip to Target at the end of the day…taking the scenic route down Ocean Boulevard instead of the easier Kings Highway… posing for photos to send in thank you cards…

We don’t have to go somewhere fancy to celebrate love. We can celebrate it at Target, in the car, or at home. The most important thing is the love.

Why we love the way we do: the good, the bad, the Johnny Castle

Usually I believe it to be a beautiful thing: the way time colors and shifts our perspective into something refined, something that makes sense out of the past, something that finds the reason for it all or the lesson learned.

But tonight, after watching Dirty Dancing for perhaps the 17-millionth time, I feel the opposite. Because after watching this time, I feel a little blame-y toward Johnny Castle.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. As played by Patrick Swayze, sweet, sexy, swoon-worthy graceful-yet-macho, left-us-way-too-soon Hollywood icon for my generation and others, he remains one of the most romantic and hot leading men of the 1980s, and probably ever.

But as an archetype for a mate, a boyfriend, a first love, the 34-year-old mommy version of me says, No friggen way.

20111009-000609.jpgIt’s no wonder we fell for him, my Gen X sisters. Not only was he smoldering in every version of tight black shirt he donned in the film, he was sensitive. He had a passion to dance, rather than join the housepainter’s union. He was a supportive, responsible hero to his ‘friend’ Penny. (though give me a break…even the junior high version of me knew Penny would have been more than friends with Johnny faster than you can say Kellerman’s). And he looked at Baby the way a suburban mom with three kids in the car looks at a Panera Bread with a drive-thru, as if she personified hope, kindness, solace, and a one-way ticket out of sure misery.

But, dude. She was 17. Seventeen. And though the magazine tell us it’s where the girl ends and the woman begins, and the Winger song says she’ll show you love like you’ve never seen, 17 is one year younger than my oldest daughter, the age i was when I made some of the worst decisions of my life, and only half the age I am now, and I’m pretty sure at 34 I still know next-to-nothing most days.

17 is not fit to be anyone’s romantic hero. At least not in middle class America.

17 is look-don’t-touch to a twentysomething guy, no matter how noble he is.

And quite frankly, considering a week before he met Baby, he was accepting the room keys of several random cougars a day, I’m not sure noble is a good term for him.

(I still adore you, Johnny Castle, and I still mourn you, Patrick Swayze, but)

You are not a guy I want my daughters to love.
though you’re a guy I’d want my husband to mentor

And watching you at junior high slumber parties, repeatedly rewinding the part when you scrunch your adorable nose and sing, ‘And I owe it all to you’ is probably one of the reasons I had my own ridiculous, soap-operaesque ‘save the males’ romantic complex during my dating years.
though I still love listening to ‘She’s Like the Wind’ on repeat sometimes.

And really, would it have been that hard for you to say to Dr. Houseman from the onset that you were taking responsibility for Penny, not that you were responsible for her pregnancy and botched, horrible, illegal abortion? Would that not have been easier than expecting a 17-year-old Daddy’s girl to stand up for you?
though, seriously, then we wouldn’t have had a movie or a ‘Nobody Puts Baby In The Corner’ onesie for our own babies…

At the end of this recent viewing of Dirty Dancing, my mom, sister-in-law, Facebook friends and I debated whether Johnny and Baby ended up together after the movie. Through 20 years of watching, I’d always just kind of assumed they did. How can you have the ultimate love story if the lovers aren’t together forever? How can you have the time of your life and then just walk away from it? But on the flip side, how can a sheltered 17-year-old heading off to college and the peace corps so dramatically change the course of her life in the 1960s that she ends up marrying a sometimes-employed, older dancer from New York? Does he become a housepainter to impress her dad with his stability? Does she give up her status and family to travel the Merengue circuit as his partner? Do they buy a VW minibus, declare themselves hippes, shuck the establishment, and grow up to be Steven and Elyse Keaton? I can’t imagine any of those scenarios.

As I watched the movie, it was all too easy to remember the passion and temptation of infatuation, the delicious anticipation of new love – and the mysterious, misleading adventure of forbidden love. Does it work out sometimes?

20111009-000703.jpgWell, honestly, in real life, I married a version of Johnny Castle – and he looks really good in a black shirt, and he is the best husband I could have, and he’s an amazing provider and daddy to our kids, but the Johnny Castle model of romance is not the one I’d order up for my daughters. Because even though it is a beautiful notion that love rescues, that love redeems, that love conquers all, love in the real world carries baggage and consequences and most of the time, the world is not very forgiving to the Johnnys and Babys.

Love all you can,
but keep the restraints on until you know, until you aren’t 17, and until there is nothing about it you are compelled to hide.

It is what it is

‘And honestly I must be stupid to think love is love, but I do.’ – Aimee Mann

Among the 6 million or so things I have felt or learned or observed in this Moving Process, it’s that more than ever, even when it makes sense less than ever, love is the thing.

Love is the glue.

Love is the gift.

Love is the reason.

Love is the source.

Love is the strength.

Love is the ‘a-ha’ moment.

Love is the thing that makes it ok.

Love is what makes acquaintances into friends, friends into family, and family into our fiber.

Love is the cleansing tears and the uninhibited laughter.

Love is what makes time fly and what makes a moment live forever.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~>

20110728-100722.jpg

Perhaps I knew all of this before, but being here, thrown head first into All Things New, depending on an intimate crew (how thankful I am for you!) instead of a big circle of wagons (how I miss you!), spurs me to find silver linings and anchors and outlets that i took for granted when I was in a world of familiar, when I could navigate the everyday with a blindfold on.

Truth is, even though this morning I woke up with butterflies in my stomach over nothing specific and everything in the world, even though i really did cry while filling out those emergency contact forms and almost swore trying to get an appointment with a new pediatrician, and even though i kind of don’t know what I am doing on a regular basis, I like it here. I’m glad we did this. And I think it’s going to be good.

Love your neighbors

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22, NIV)

{or if you’re in a law kind of mood):

Leviticus 19:18 NIV “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

Why do you think Jesus made “love your neighbor” so high up on the list of stuff we should do?

I mean, why didn’t He say, “Second guess your neighbor?” Why didn’t He suggest we “tear down our neighbor’s efforts?” or “hurt your neighbor as he has hurt you?” Why didn’t He command us to “make assumptions on your neighbor based on what you hear/observe/read on Facebook and tell it to the world like fact?” Or why didn’t He leave us instructions to “ignore your neighbor, her need, her pain, her cries for help, because they make you uncomfortable or because she isn’t as good as you are?”

I’ve seen a lot of talk lately about the last days, about Christians taking a stand, about proclaiming absolute truth without regard to “political correctness.”  That all sounds good. But when well-meaning Christians use those ideas as weapons, they circumvent their own efforts.

I’ve even seen Christians accuse other Christians of NOT being Christians because they choose a different way of delivering the gospel truth. Talk about a time-waster. While you’re accusing a brother or sister in Christ of doing it wrong, your other 50 or 500 or 1500 Facebook friends are watching you, perhaps lost and dying, and seeing that you don’t have any of the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control that is supposed to be evident in those living for Christ.

What happens to them, when the Jesus they see is an angry, bitter time-waster picking fights with other Christians?

Your mama might have said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

But much more specific and productive instruction comes from your Heavenly Father:
“You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness…But that doesn’t mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift…God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.” (from Ephesians 4, The Message)

For the love of God, can we stop the snarkfest, the accusations, the time-wasting assumptions and campaigns? Stop picking battles with your brothers that will only result in everyone’s demise.

Christians, if you’re choosing a hill to die on, let it be Calvary.

~

I am really, deeply grateful to be attending a Pentecostal  church that commemorates Lent. We had a sweet, quiet time of family communion tonight, and when we came home, I logged out of Facebook and deleted all my browser history. I’m not saying I won’t check or post occasionally, but I do know that in this season of reflection and sacrifice, I want my life to get a little more quiet so I can hear what God might be speaking to my heart. As a writer and a reader, words that people share mean so much to me, but it’s occurred to me lately that I have given too much power to words. For the next 40 days, may my meditations stay on the power in the Blood.