What a T-shirt Reminded Me About Love


Today was the first day of my Spring Break, and I spent the day (and an empty house) running errands and sprucing up the place for Spring/Motherly visit/Easter weekend. As I knew that I had errands to run after dropping my daughter off at preschool, I simply pulled on jeans, flats, and a favorite t-shirt before shrugging on my coat (yes, it’s still ridiculously cold for spring). A clearance buy from UnlockHope.com, this shirt was a soft red with “Love is a Verb” lettered on the front in white stylized artistry. Yes, it is definitely a favorite: comfy and truthful.

A lesson I have taken to heart over the past ten years is the exact one this shirt expounds. Love is many things. It is not only a feeling, an emotion. Love is a choice. Love is an action. Love is doing for others, not just saying the three little words. As I moved throughout my day, I found myself contemplating the words on my shirt: “Love is a verb.” I started to look at my day’s activities in the light of this sentence. And I realized just how true it is.

I realized that I was loving my dear ones by taking care of getting the taxes done (almost always a depressing endeavor). We’ve had the same wonderful professional taking care of our taxes since the first year of our marriage because I fully and openly acknowledge that tax codes and laws are something I am complete and utter rubbish at. Utilizing someone else’s skills and expertise helps my family in the best way while also keeping us as safe from mistakes as possible.

I was loving as I washed dishes, cleaned the stove, and tidied the kitchen table, creating space ready for cooking and eating and ease of finding things.

I was loving as I filed away my daughter’s preschool worksheets and projects, saving evidence of her progress and growth for her grandmother to see, as well as the future.

I was loving as I filled the washing machine and folded the already-dried towels, ensuring that my dear ones have clean clothes to wear tomorrow and days after.

I was loving as I sorted through toys and tidied my girl’s table where she creates her art and plays with her Legos.

As I worked and cleaned, listening to my audiobook and pausing for quick text chats with friends (and even now as I sit tired and achy from the energy spent), I found myself sighing contently at the productivity and smiling at the connection my heart was making with my hands. Sometimes I forget that the everyday tasks I perform and the things that I do are love. Love personified. Love acted out. Because it’s true, dear ones.

Love is more than just a feeling.

Love is a choice.

Love is action, whether that action is holding space, tidying a sink full of dishes, hugging someone close and letting them cry, or listening closely without saying a word.

Love is indeed a verb.

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Five Minutes in the Frost


Earlier this week, in listening to her The Next Right Thing podcast, I took Emily P. Freeman’s admonition to give myself just five quiet minutes to heart. So, this morning, as I took out the trash, I gave myself five extra minutes in the frosty outside. I wandered around the front yard, looking at the flower beds that I planted back in September, with the help of my husband and father in law. I can see the shoots of my flowers–daffodils and crocuses–pushing up through the mulch in defiance of the cold, and I find myself growing more and more excited every day. I’m ready to see their colors burst out in vibrancy after a cold, bleak winter.

The sun had just come up about an hour previous, and I could see the rays and glow branching out in the sky from behind our house. The air was bright and “clear and cold and so clean it almost sparkled” (S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders), and birdsong filled the new morning. It felt as though the birds were rabid to make up for those frozen silent weeks of the winter when the icy cold stole all sound and wrapped the world in a thick quiet. Later on in the day, as I left the house for errands, I noted the same flower shoots looking even perkier in the now fully-bright and warm sunlight.

Spring is coming, I can feel my heart sing. The sun, the light, the warmth, and the color are returning, and I honestly cannot wait. After a busy, hectic, stressful week, those five minutes did me a world of good.

 

The Cost of Self-Care


Why does self-care always come at a cost? Or, rather, why do I always require/attach a cost to it?

Real life case-in-point. this past week, I was diagnosed with strep throat for the first time in my almost thirty-five years and was ordered by my doctor to stay home from work on Friday. I did, and, over the course of the weekend, I did what I could to rest from Thursday evening until roughly 3pm on Saturday. I laid in bed when I could, slept as late as I could, took hot baths, took my meds, drank fluids, and made sure I fed myself. At around 3pm Saturday, however, I saw the overflowing sink, the cluttered stove and kitchen table, and decided that I needed to make up for the time I had taken off, to make up the day and a half that I had spent being a laze-about. I actually said the words “I need to make up for lost time” to myself. My kitchen needed cleaning; clothes needed washing; I had already bathed my child, but she still needed attention, few spoons though I had to offer in that particular area. I felt like I had to make up for taking care of my own sick self.

Now, let’s look at the facts again. I wasn’t being lazy. I had strep. I was legitimately ill. And, yet, I felt like I had to make up for the time taken to help my body begin to heal. So I washed the dishes, cleaned the kitchen, sanitized the house, and did three loads of laundry, not to mention helping my daughter tidy up her daylong mess in the living room and look for the TV remote that she had lost. I pushed my body that is still working to fight off an infection and heal (and will continue to push—I still have grading to do and midterm grades are this week, along with preparation for our school’s accreditation visit) because self-care has a cost, and that cost is time.

Time cannot be held onto. Time cannot be gained back. Time can only be spent. Time can only be lost. So we are told. And, honestly, self-care often takes time that I just do not have.

I have a family.

I have a job.

I have a home to take care of.

I have responsibilities.

Extra time—or what feels as though it would require extra time—is something I often do not have.

But why? Why do I insist on having to make up for taking time out of all-important life, time that something inside tells me “could have been better used” than lying in bed and trying to get extra rest? Truthfully, I don’t know. Rationally, my brain knows that self-care and taking time for healing is important. However, we human beings are often anything but rational, me included. For example, I am sitting here writing this in my living room when, with my child already asleep, I could go to bed early.

Not to mention that this week, I lost a grandparent. The diagnosis, progression, and succumbing were immensely quick and unexpected. I live very far away from that side of the family, so I am somewhat at a loss as to what to do or even how to grieve in this moment. And I feel like that I don’t even really have time to figure that out. Time and the world keep marching on and so I must with it. Processing time is something I need but I almost feel as though it is a luxury in this moment.

The cost of self-care is time, time that I don’t have–or, rather, don’t think I have–and that makes me feel…less. I feel weak for “giving in” and “letting things slide”. I feel like I am less able to order my life than others. I feel as though I am not fulfilling my responsibilities to my family and our home. So, in my mind, I must make up for that. I must fulfill my role. I must make up for lost (read: wasted) time. This is a headspace out of which I am still struggling to break at almost thirty-five years of age. My progress in this area is imperfect and often feels minuscule to nonexistent, but that is why I am writing about it today. Acknowledging and exploring the reality of the dichotomy is at least one step forward I can take.

Through all this mental/emotional struggle this week, I have been gifted with and blessed by dear ones who have done their best to remind me that I need to take care of myself. They have showered me with grace, gentleness, and kindness in their reminders and sharing of this truth (yes, again, my logic and common sense acknowledge that this is true), filling in the spots where I have failed to grant them to myself.  So, thank you, friends. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your kindness, gentleness, and grace. I will try to follow your example and extend them to myself, too. I doubt I’ll be very good at it (at first, at least), but I will try. Everything that is said below has been said to me more than once over the past week. Thank you again, dear ones. I will try harder to remember this.

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We Can Be Heroes


My husband’s sermon today laid a strong finger on my heart and reminded me that the world may be scary but scary won’t stop me. Don’t let it stop you either. Love and goodness, kindness and generosity, mercy, and solidarity are more necessary than ever.

It’s time to #HeroUp, dear ones.

West River Friends Meeting

Scripture: Romans 12

Audiohttps://clyp.it/otju54tr

How can we live Godly, heroically in a world full of such darkness and evil? Honestly? There’s no secret to it. To be a hero, all we have to do is be good and do good. We need to love. And Christ gave us the most perfect example of such love.

Our culture is convinced that you cannot change the world by loving others. They’re wrong. We can change the world. Not instantly, however. Change through love is a process.

But how do we even start?

1.) We have to dedicate ourselves to the task at hand, to loving others. Love takes work.

  • Becoming a good person takes time and work and practice, commitment, sacrifice.
  • There are times when we will need to give up what is immediate, easy, or desired in order to do our best good. Love is work. Daily work…

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Stepping into the New Year


Today was our teacher work day ahead of the start of the spring semester. Honestly, last night, day one hadn’t even begun yet and I was already ready to quit. Just thinking about it made me tired, exhausted. So, today, I gave myself some very pointed instructions: take care of what absolutely must be done for Monday and Tuesday to flow as smoothly as you can manage. The rest can wait until later in the week. And I stuck to those self-imposed limitations for the most part. I stuck to it rather well, actually.

I’m not good that: sticking to limitations. I end up having arguments with myself that go rather like this.

Only go this far.

But—there’s so much to be done! Just a little more.

No, you’re going to get overwhelmed and freak out.

I’ll be…

You’re freaking out, aren’t you?

Yeah.

I am not good at sticking to limitations. I am not good at just taking one step. I feel the need to take several more, just to make sure. Just to make absolutely sure that everything that needs to be done is done, every possible preparation is made, every security I can manage put into place to assure that things go as closely to how they need to go (read: how I want them to go) as possible.

This year, the odds are good that there may come quite a few situations that I will feel overwhelmed by and thus be tempted to take extra steps to try control said situations. My challenge and journey this year will be in taking just the next step. Not running ahead, not taking a few extra steps “just in case”, but in taking just the next step that I feel God has led me to take. And then wait.

When I was a child, I attended a private church-school and, every morning, we said the pledge to the Bible. I pledge allegiance to the Bible: God’s Holy Word. I will make it a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

“A lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” If you know anything about lamps, then you know that their circle of light doesn’t go very far. It will light your feet for the next step but only the next step. One step at a time.

This year, I want to lean into taking just that next step. Just the next step that I feel led to take. Faith, patience, courage, trust…all of these things lead into this action. I want to be better at it, at them. That is my goal for this year, that is my lesson, my learning: to take just the next step. The very next step. That’s all.

 

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Opening the Door for the Year to Slip Out (NYE 2017)


Today is the end of 2017. As we close out this year, I know it has been a terribly hard one for many personally. Terribly, terrifically, desperately hard. We as a society have lost a goodly amount of progress and soul under a leader who is out of touch with life and decency. Many people have seen 2017 tear away their security, faith in leaders, their resources, and even their very families.  Still, they and others have risen up in the midst of it, voices raised in defiance and truth and a call for rights, help, and protections for all.

This reminds me that good is not gone from the world, and, for that, I am imminently thankful. There are good people. There are people who will live and fight for others, for their rights, for their survival. There are people who will hold up their fellow man and woman, hold them gently and close, and speak for those who have no voice. There are people who love and love fiercely, as God has called us to love, and nothing will stop them in their course of action. Good is not gone from this world and it will never go silently away.

In this year, there have been wonderful moments, beautiful moments, silent and glorious moments. There have been moments of incredulity, of misunderstanding and pain, of facing a hard truth and then walking in the light of it, however it may blister. There have been moments that felt so terrible that all I wanted to do was hide away from the world forever. But I didn’t.

I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. I didn’t then, and I won’t now.

As 2017 makes its way out, I won’t wish it farewell with great fanfare or warm its way with a Molotov cocktail (though it feels like it’s surely earned something of the like in more than a few places). Instead, I’ll simply open the door and let it slip out into the dark night of midnight, consigned to oblivion. Similar to Shakespeare’s own words: “Then, window, let day in and let life out (Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene 5).” We will never see this year again, never see its moments again. All that lies ahead is new. The moments ahead that await us are precious and painful in their own right; they can stand on their own two feet and need no help from the past.

But, as I open the door for this year to leave, I let the new one in. Shiny and blue and looking around bewildered by the expectations that already settle on its shoulders, the things that are enacted and put into place upon its birth. I will do my best to brush those expectations off 2018’s shoulders like so much snow off a coat and just…let it be for a bit. For a few hours. For a moment. I will kiss my husband and child. I will pray peace and good and restoration over this year. I will call my still-awake dear ones and text my slumbering ones and wish them a Happy New Year. I will sip from my glass and blow out the candles.

I will welcome 2018. I will straighten my shoulders, look it in the eye, and meet it with all the love, courage, fierce gentleness, and soul I can muster. And I pray that for you, too. I pray for courage, grace, peace, restoration, and hope for you.

Happy New Year, dear one. May it be blessed.

Letting Go of “Lots” for Christmas


Throughout life, but especially right now in the Holiday Season, I am finding more and more each year, that I am having to let go. Not of people necessarily (though that does happen) but definitely let go. I am having to let go of plans and expectations, of details and striving.

I really wanted this year to be different, simpler. Doesn’t that sound odd, though? Striving for simplicity? I tried to lower the number of gifts bought (losing battle, usually, but maybe I’ll try something different next year). I have tried to embrace the quiet moments (difficult with a rambunctious five-year-old and the never-ending work of teaching). I tried to get everything done early (yeah…was still ordering gifts as recently as Saturday morning). I feel like I’m constantly striving for a goal but missing it somehow and then having to let go of what I thought were pretty good plans. Even worse, I’m having to let go of expectations that I somehow managed to place upon myself without even realizing the weight that was settling on my shoulders. You, too? Well, welcome to the club. More and more I am feeling like Cindy Lu Who, wondering what happened to my joy in Christmas, while, all the while, I’m rushing around like mad, the same as every other Who in Whoville. After all, there are still Christmas programs to attend and participate in, pitch-ins to cook for, papers to grade, and presents to wrap.

Every year, I say the same thing and I feel like I fail at that one thing: a simpler, more meaningful Christmas. I feel as though I lose myself in the attempt to make sure that it’s special for my dear ones–which is, of course, important–and I forget to enjoy it myself. Then I blink and…Christmas is gone.  The season is over and the softness of the lights becomes glaring, a reminder that it’s slipped through my fingers again.

Is this you, too, by any chance? Well, then. Trust me, dear one, you are in excellent company. The rush of the world is hard to resist and sometimes we just end up striving anyway and feeling like we never get much of anywhere. But there is good news! Christmas hasn’t passed us by yet. Like Scrooge, we still have a chance. We still have a chance for a glass of wine/hot chocolate/egg nog/cider before the silent glow of the Christmas tree. We have a chance to find those little moments of peace and quiet. We still have a chance to let go of some “lots” for a bit more of “best”.

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