Valentine’s Day

Image

 

Even as a single female I really like Valentine’s day. 

I don’t deny that it is commercialized and that is feeds America’s need for romance. It is definitely a holiday that tells men they need to do x, y, and z because they’ve left a huge, gigantic, gaping love-shaped hole in their partner and they need to scramble to fill it. It is a holiday of obligation, cards, and cliches. 

Yet I find Valentine’s day to be useful and awakening. It is a day that allows me to reflect on how I’ve been loving people all year round. Have I been doing a good job? Have I told people I love them, shown them that I care all throughout the year? Have I been a loving sister, daughter, aunt, and friend? Valentine’s day reminds me that love is an action, a reminder that I appreciate. 

Valentine’s day also gives me the chance to see hurting people come out of the woodwork. It is a day that provokes a lot of emotion and draws out people who have been hurt all year and finally have an appropriate day to voice their hurt. Maybe this reason isn’t great because it means people are feeling lonely because of a holiday, but it gives me a chance to see who needs more love. Who needs someone to get them coffee? Who needs to hear some encouraging words? 

Ideally I would be doing that sort of thing all year and I really do try to, but Valentine’s day reminds me to be on the lookout for people who need someone.

I also enjoy the fact that friends and family often love on me on Valentine’s day. I don’t need a romantic partner, I just need relationships. For a long while my best friend and I, when we were in the same state, would go out to a nice dinner and buy each other gifts because we chose to not let our singleness get us down. 

Tonight, I’ll spend my Valentine’s day with my niece (who turns two tomorrow – oh man) so that her parents can go and enjoy a night out unhindered by a baby and I am going to enjoy it. I get to show my niece love and in the process give my sister and her husband a break. 

Valentine’s day, as with any holiday, is all about what you make it out to be and I make it out to be about a love that serves. 

Happy Valentine’s day my dears! ❤

Advertisements

Go and do

There are days when I’m very critical. I get mad at the world, angry at political commentators, frustrated with the general state of our country and other countries. I sit around and fuss about the government and about people and I come up with a list a mile long of all the things everyone is doing incorrectly.

The government shouldn’t have to be the one we turn to in order to help the poor, people should.

Controversial words slapped on pictures hold way too much sway on the current generation.

No one fact checks.

Everyone hyperbolizes.

The rich don’t give enough.

The poor don’t do enough.

See? I could go at this all day, pointing out everything that other people are doing poorly. I could probably create an entire game plan on how to fix everything and submit it to the President if I wanted to. There’s a problem though: sitting on my rear end being critical doesn’t do a single thing. Nothing is going to change because I sit around complaining all day.

It comes down to a phrase that the Christian writer, activist, and hugger Bob Goff uses and I always come back to:

Love does.

The love I have for this world isn’t going to be expressed through a detailed critique of everything other people are doing incorrectly. The love I have for people isn’t going to come through the more I sit around yelling at the government or yelling at the wealthy to help people. My love isn’t even truly expressed through writing these words and posting them on a blog. The love I have for this world and all of the people in it can only be expressed in doing.

Maybe I write well, maybe I’m good at pushing through logical fallacies and calling people out on their bull, maybe I’m really clever and smart and can humiliate those who disagree with me. Ultimately none of these things matter because I’m not actually doing what I’m called to do. See, I’m not doing and that is the key.

So instead of lobbying for a certain political position or piece of legislation, maybe I should put that money and time toward helping families. Instead of complaining about the failing education system in this country, I could jump into it and reach into the lives of kids who are struggling. Maybe instead of condemning young women who have had sex and are pregnant and looking for an escape, I can come alongside them and walk them through the process and whatever process they choose let them know that they are loved through it all.

Why do all of this? Because Jesus has walked with me through my hardest times, through my darkest patches, and continues to pick me up when I fall.  He does. His love manifests itself through the people that step into my life with encouraging words, who come alongside me and tell me that it is okay to not have a job and that God has a plan, who tell me I will kill it in graduate school, and who insist that I can be a powerful force in the world if I just let myself be.  

I don’t think my life has ever been genuinely impacted by anything less than the people around me doing something. Actions speak louder than words and I believe actions carry the message a lot further. 

You’re Beloved

It is amazing to me how one minute I am going about my day and the next I’m struck by a simple, kind phrase.

On Twitter today I was bantering with an actor whose work I enjoy. Me and a few other fans were chatting with him as usual, bouncing back and forth, posting pictures of our pets, and being goofballs. It is fun to brush elbows with the people who entertain us week after week on television.

He had posted a bit of a trivia question, wondering if any of his followers knew the answer. No one seemed to know as his fans refused to Google it (at his behest) and honestly replied. Jokingly I tweeted him saying that we as his fans had failed him, and his tweet back stopped me in my tracks.

No, no, you’re beloved. No failure possible.

I actually looked up the definition of the world ‘beloved’ and got these:

1. Dearly loved

2. Greatly loved; dear to the heart.

In other words, it is a fancy way to tell someone they are worth something. That they are loved. It made me stop, not because of who the tweet came from, or the context of anything on Twitter, but because I realized how little time I take to stop and fully comprehend just how loved I am.

I’m far more likely to spend the day thinking of all of the ways I have failed, or all of the things I should have done but didn’t, and don’t take any time to sit and feel loved. To stop and be loved. To love myself and to be thankful for all of the people in my life who love me.

It also made me realize how often I neglect to let the people in my life know that I love them. That they are beloved, no matter what they’ve done. When my niece, who is a toddler, does something she is not supposed to do we scold her…but then tell her that we love her. Her mess up, her mistake, her disobedience does not negate the love we have for her. It is not the “failure” we want her to focus on. We want her to know that she is loved even when she’s at her worse.

We take this approach with kids but lose it as adults. More often than not, at least in my circle of influence, when an adult messes up we tease them. I tease them. Sometimes I even bring it up later in the week and we all laugh about it again. Sometimes I’m the butt of the joke. I had a fact or belief that was proven to be incorrect and it is brought up again and again, laughed at every time, until it becomes something I cringe about.

I don’t like when that happens, so why on earth do I do it to other people?

Pointing out mistakes is not inherently bad, but when people are only told how badly they are screwing up without the understanding that through it all they are loved, it begins to take its toll. Guilt or embarrassment suddenly becomes shame.

I imagine when we’re at our worst and beat ourselves up over one failure or another, God just shakes his head and says something similar to what I was told today:

No, no, you’re beloved. No failure possible.

It is funny how those seven words can have such an impact.

So this week (and for the rest of my life) I hope I can be a person that makes her love clear, even when people screw up. I also hope I will be someone who can accept love from others even when I screw up.

Let grace and love abound. 

Graduation Reflections

Image

Yesterday I graduated from college with a BA in Psychology. Of course this has left me rather thoughtful as I look back over the past five semesters.

I did not graduate when I planned to, but I think I graduated when I needed to. That is the first thing that sticks out to me. I remember the moment my advisor told me that it was not going to be possible to graduate in May of 2013 unless I was willing to take 18 unit semesters and take courses outside of the University I was attending. I was mortified. I felt like my plans were falling apart and that I had somehow failed to achieve my goals.

In reality the timing worked out better than I had expected because I don’t know what I would have done without this last semester. If it were not for my December graduation date, I would not have gotten the chance to spend a summer living in Southern California. I would not have been able to take a trip to the Grand Canyon, invest in a new church family, or get as connected with my university as I was able to.

It continues to astound me that God’s timing really beats mine every time…and for the better.

I’m grateful that my family let me chase my Southern California dream, and thankful for everyone who encouraged me to leave. I cannot imagine who I would be if I had not packed up my 2001 Buick Century and left for a tiny little private school in the middle of Orange County. The people I have met, the friends I have made, the things I have gotten to do, and the things I have learned have shaped me. Walls were torn down and better, healthier, more functional walls were built up. I made friends and met mentors who will continue to walk with me through this crazy life even when almost the entire state of California is between me and them.

You see, post-graduation I am sad because I am going to be leaving all of these wonderful things, but at the same time I take joy in the fact that I get to leave wonderful things behind.

When I came down to Southern California I was running. I was running from my family, from my past, from the clouds, rain, and cold. I wanted a fresh start, something new, something different, and a place where I could hide from everything that had surrounded me for so many years. Instead of hiding I found a home, and in that home I found people who have taught me that I don’t have to run anymore.

There is nothing I have to try to escape. I’m free.

I am free to live, be joyful, sing, laugh, form new friendships, and continue with old ones. I do not have to separate myself from my Southern California life because it is just as much a part of me as my life in Oregon will be. Slowly but surely I have managed to become an integrated person. My life is no longer a series of separate little boxes, with each one having its own expectations of who I am supposed to be and how I am supposed to act. I am me, a dynamic, living, breathing person who is the same in Southern California as she is in Oregon and will be anywhere else I end up.

I’m just me and I’m okay with that, because somehow God still uses me to do cool things. That last statement, more than anything else, is worth more than my college degree ever will be. 

Schooled by a Child in the Art of Giving (Outside of a Target)

I stopped by Target today. I’m going to the Grand Canyon this weekend and I had a couple more things I needed to pick up. As I walked up to the doors I saw a table set up with a lady sitting at it, a donation box in front of her for an organization that helps homeless families. She was wearing a turkey hat, which was what really caught my attention. Yet I walked by and went about my business.

After checking out I exited the store and saw her there, knowing she was going to ask for money. I did my best to hustle by. I refused to make eye contact and hurriedly made my way to my car, saved from having to respond to her plea for money since her sights were on someone else. Yet as I was crossing the street a man’s son ran by, waved at her, and then exclaimed, “I would give you change!” I looked over and his dad was ushering him away, but something about his exuberant exclamation made me pause.

My thoughts as I had exited Target and hurried past this woman were as follows:

I already give enough.

I have other organizations that get my money.

I will fill a box for Thanksgiving for a family.

Oh how hard my heart is and how it melted at a little boy’s words! No wonder Jesus loved children so much. Their hearts are soft and their hands are open. They do not try to justify their inaction. They wear their hearts on their sleeves.

As I loaded my stuff into the car I took out some cash and walked back over to the lady in the turkey hat and dropped the money into her donation box. Her face lit up.

It was only a couple of dollars and I am not writing this to glorify me. I am writing this because the sweet, innocent words of a child who would have given every last cent he had to help someone in need showed me something about my own heart. If a little child who has nothing would have given it anyway, how much more should I who has more than plenty, be willing to give to help those in need?

“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, ‘Truly, I tell you this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’” (Luke 21:1-4 ESV)

I stepped out of Target unwilling to give even a little of my abundance, already justifying my inaction because of all the other things I do. Really, I should be giving first to those in need and then dealing with the rest. Children are often willing to give all they have to help, but I was not even willing at first to put a couple of dollars in a donation tin.

I pray God helps me to be a person with a soft heart and the willingness of a child to help those in need.