Thursday, June 26, 2014

Have You Ever Been In Love?

Have you ever been in love?

Like seriously in love - you talk to him every day and text him when you aren't talking and see him every chance you get?  Like you want to tell him all your good and bad news first?  Like nothing you do could ever be as fun without him?  Like you miss his presence on girls night and hanging with your family?

I feel you. I am a champion at falling in love.  In fact, I watched the movie Country Strong shortly after my own bouts with depression and suicidal tendencies.  I internalized the lead character's advice: "Don't be afraid to fall in love; it's the only thing that matters in life. The only thing. You just fall in love with as many things as possible."

This is a good tactic for getting yourself out of depression.  Lupe Fiasco, in his song, "2Ways" says, "you really like summer, you really like music, you really like reading, LOVE."  He's following similar advice.

But once you've given yourself reasons to keep living, to continue getting out of bed in the morning, there ought to be something more.

Would you believe me if I said each and every one of us was intelligently designed for the sole purpose of being head over heels, elbows over ankles, in love?

With God.

It might seem crazy because we find it so much easier to love things we can touch - ice cream, piano keys, grass, and a man's finger tips... but imagine for a second that your Lover doesn't have a job and yet still has boundless resources to shower on you?  So no matter when you want to "call Him," He's available and willing.  He gives gifts so much better than you can even imagine, much less pick out in a store.  Consider that the enormous capacity you - especially as a woman - possess for loving (we pick up dirty socks, change dirty diapers, and still manage to smile and give hugs) is primarily for loving God.  Understand that the only reason you are such a fantastic lover is because you have first been loved by Someone omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent.  And He deserves our reciprocation.

Don't be afraid to fall in love. But falling for God will eradicate the need to fall for anything else. All other "loves" are just gifts from God.

After all, God is the definition of Love (1 John 4:8).

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Nothing But the Truth

Spoken word poet Alysia Harris embodies the art of telling the ugly truth in a beautiful way.  She speaks with her whole face, her whole body, she loses her voice and makes herself cry 90% of the time.  This is how you know what she's saying is true.  If you can write it, edit it, memorize and rehearse it and have it still bring you to tears, you're onto something.

She tweeted this quote years ago:

The best example I have of this truth is me and my bestie, Jess.  She and I have been making best friendship work for almost 8 years.  Over the last 6 months, we have been really committed to deepening our friendship by talking more regularly even though she lives in Germany (remember last week's post? Make it work. We use the Voxer app) and praying with and for each other.  We give each other updates on all the big stuff and all the little stuff several times a week.  When we disagree, we figure out why we disagreed. When we get frustrated we tell each other, we apologize, and we attempt to not make the same mistake again. We still sometimes make each other cry.

Any time you talk to someone this often, you will need a set of principles to guide you.

Here are the three things that work for us:

God - If Jess and I did not each (not one or the other, or one on behalf of the other) have a firm commitment to a God who never gives up on His relationship with us, we would probably have given up on our friendship with each other.  In fact, when we were both weaker in our faith, it was much harder and we made more and harsher mistakes.

Also, if we did not each understand a God who forgives endlessly and gives more grace than we could ever give or deserve, we would not have an example of how to treat each other with grace and forgiveness.

Love - Jess and I have spent countless hours discussing the different facets of that four-letter word.  We always use the Bible as our guide - 1 Corinthians 13, 1 John 4:7-11, Ephesians 3:17-19 (she asked me to read this at her wedding, even after I'd been really mean to her - that's love), and countless other scriptures.

We take what we read and we attempt to apply it literally.  The Bible is a book of instructions given to a beloved group of people from a Father who only wants what's best for them. And we know "Love...rejoices in the truth" (1 Cor. 13:6).

So, when Jesus says, "turn the other cheek," it literally means that in a fight when a person hits you, love would guide you not to hit them back. For real. This is only figurative in that it can apply to non-physical fights.  If someone calls you a dirty name or cusses you out, you are not to retaliate.  Love stands down, takes the hit, extends forgiveness (without being asked) and does not hold a grudge. Look at Jesus on the day of his crucifixion. Whoa. We don't like this because we see "being a doormat" as enabling the other person's bad behavior.  But somehow Jesus didn't see it that way, and I can't presume to be smarter than him.

Honesty - You have to tell the truth. We make the mistake of believing that others are not smart enough, stable enough, or loving enough to handle our truths or treat us well in the face of our truths. That's where we have to be patient, loving, and forgiving and give them time, space, and resources to understand us.

Jess and my friendship finally became smoother when we learned how to disagree with each other and still be loving and supportive. Aristotle is attributed as saying, "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." As friends, we have to entertain each other's thoughts, feelings, ideas, plans, goals, and potential relationships.  We must entertain them, and if they need re-sculpting, be honest and loving enough to tell our friend why and offer support for how.

It is as simple as 1, 2, 3 and as incredibly difficult.  True communication, true friendship, true love, requires honesty to make us better people.  Someone has to tell you that you are spending too much time at the club to really make your business successful.  Someone has to tell you that the way you speak to people discourages collaboration.  The only way I've seen to be honest without ruining your rapport with people is to always temper your honesty with love.  The only way I know to be dedicated to love is to follow God's example, especially in Jesus Christ.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Lost Art of Talking

Once upon a time in the days of old before computers and cell phones, people did a lot more talking - real communicative talking - than we do now.

If you were curious whether your neighbor had her baby yet, you had to walk over to her house and ask.  You had to talk to her.  If you were interested in a new job, you had to verbally ask the manager if there were any openings.  If you thought the boy in your third period class was cute, you couldn't end up at a dance with him unless you talked first.  

Now we just watch for a Facebook status update or a notification from LinkedIn, subscribe to a dating site, or better yet: Tindr.  

Several years back, teenagers started referring to the time between when you meet someone and when you start to call them your boyfriend/girlfriend as "talking."
He asked me for my number and now we're "talking."
We've been on a couple of dates, but we're not together; we're just "talking."

Talking got a bad rap because we overused and then misused it - like we do with most things, including the Internet. 

I'd like to give a set of witty examples of what couples who are pseudo-dating do, now that "talking" is sort of out, but I have no clue.  I graduated from "hook-ups" shortly after college and I have never considered love to be casual.  So I, like the 25-year-old grandma I am, still "talk" to guys.  I'd rather go out for coffee than to the movies.  I get why the "taking long walks on the beach" cliché exists.  My favorite part of my last first date was not the dope rap show or the fun time eating greasy breakfast food with friends. It was the hour we spent in the parking lot under the street lamp, just talking. 

Let's bring back talking, on all levels of human connection.  
  • Don't send your boss an email; go into her office and talk to her.  If you're really ambitious, take care of the work thing and then be genuinely interested in her as a person.  
  • That mom from your son's soccer team, invite her and her son for ice cream after the game. Talk to her.  She could be your new BFF.  
  • And best of all, that guy at church you think is so cute, DON'T ask for his number. And don't find a clever way to sneak him yours. You'll only end up texting.  Set up an event with friends - bowling, dinner, game night (I don't care how grown you think you are; those are fun!) - and invite him to the event so you can talk to him.  

Our relationships mirror our communication.  Dating is shallow because we didn't "talk" enough. Our friendships aren't deep enough to weather the storm because we never told her what she needed to know. 

Don't be scared to be honest. 

P.S. However much you talk, you need to listen twice as hard. 

P.P.S. This communication strategy works on your connection to God too.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

It's June

It's June.  Sunrises and sunsets come later, and that's good because everyone is sleeping in - except the elders. Many veterans operate on a body clock set to 5 a.m.  They rise, because it's time, because the sun never sleeps in, because you're burnin' daylight, child, get up and do something!  

It's summer and we teachers and parents worry what our kids will get into with all their time off.  Will they fry their brains with too many video games?  Will they forget everything they learned in school?  

"Idle hands are the devil's plaything," you know. But the elders welcome free time more than ice cream.  They are happy to sit and watch the storm clouds roll in, although they smelled it yesterday.  Their senses are better than ours.  The internet didn't exist in their time, so they had to learn to get their information from their surroundings and their souls.

In June there is Father's Day and the anniversary of the death of the only man who showed what fatherhood should look like.  PaPa taught me to tie my shoes, to finish my plate, to read big words and analyze physical ailments (he was a physician's assistant).  He taught me how to really listen to piano chords, guitar strains, wind howling in trees, and the shrill voices of old ladies in the church choir past their singing days.  He called me "sweet thing." Whatever I needed he made a way to give me, but he never saved me from hard work. 

He told me to keep writing and he collected my poems and stories like any good parent, but he also made me pursue a "real job."  I could almost draw his look of relief when I said "teacher." Whew! Thank God, you'll never be out of work.

He "graduated" to heaven two years ago on the 24th and every single day I can't imagine who I would be if he hadn't earned every single one of his "grades": 
A for affection
A for provision
A for stick-to-it-tive-ness 
A for practicality
A for encouragement
A for advice
B for self-preservation

No one will reflect on their life and say, "I wouldn't know anything without Facebook." But, we remember forever the smiles, the rules, the hugs, the spankings, the example of the people who raised us. I've decided if I become more and more like my elders I will have done the world a service.

Well done, PaPa. I'll see you when I get there. 

It's a movement!