Treating Valentine’s Day Gently


Yesterday was that most celebrated and simultaneously dreaded and reviled of days: Valentine’s Day. I know some people who love it, others who disagree with it, boycott it, or downright hate it, all for different and likely very valid reasons. I personally don’t mind it. It gives me an excuse to do what I enjoy doing anyway: letting people know that they are cared for, loved, and appreciated.

In college, I bought carnations from one of the sororities and had them sent around campus to my friends. I snuck around dorms, leaving parcels of fresh-baked cookies or sliding cards under doors.

Nowadays, I send letters and cards through the mail, few to none of them necessarily red or pink or covered in hearts. I sometimes send flowers, goodie/snack baskets, books, or coveted t-shirts.

This year, I bought my husband a card about cuddling up and binge-watching our favorite show, along with a copy of the latest season of “The Big Bang Theory” so we could do just that. He bought me a DVD of a show that I have been looking forward to, too. I bought my daughter some cute outfits for her first Valentine’s Day party at preschool and a card with a spring-loaded heart inside, which she played with and covered in stickers all evening.

Yes, the day has become commercialized. Yes, the keeping of it has become social expectation. Yes, some people try to front-load affection, love, kindness, etc., and then let it lapse the rest of the year.

For some, this day is a day of bitter memory, of hurts tied not to the day itself but to the events of one or several Valentine’s Days. Unfortunately, over time, those bitter cords have attached themselves to the day itself. The circumstances have perhaps faded into oblivion, leaving only the day to stand as a bastion of misery and thus worthy of boycotting.

Again, people’s reasons are valid and they are free to do as they will.

For me, I choose to approach Valentine’s with the thought of, “Whose heart can I gentle today?”

Whose heart can I make smile today?

Who can I remind that they are loved today?

Who needs a reminder of the good that they have done that I’m grateful for?

Who could just use a kind word on what might be a lonely day?

For me, Valentine’s Day isn’t an obligation, it isn’t a burden. It’s an opportunity–for love, for encouragement, for gentleness. But that’s just the way I see it.

I hope yours was good to you.

Moments in Magical Modernity: VIII (or, The Silver Lady’s Acolyte)


Author’s Note (2/22/17):  The idea that this piece belongs with the rest of the Magical Modernity entries has not let me go, not since I first published it. And so I am succumbing to it and will now count this lovely moment amongst my other glimpses into a world where magic is everyday but still so very…well…magical.

VIII.

The sun blazed its way to its cradle in a conflagration of amethyst, coral, and rose, stark and dragon-breath bright against the indigo of the coming night. This breath of celestial fire found her bathing in a lake on a ridge. The water ran in rivulets over soft skin and rained in droplets from fingertips as gold spread over the surface of the lake. As the burning gradually died away and the indigo velvet cloaked the sky, the stars found her amidst the trees. The blue-white light spilling from the Silver Lady’s train lit on firm, supple skin, a graceful curve here, a soft roundness there. As the light scattered over her, she basked in it, breathed it in like oxygen itself. She could feel the gold begin to shimmer in her hair as she basked in the blessing of the Silver Lady. She began to move through the woods, the scent of spring blossom thick and heady in the early spring night.

As the Kitsune moved, picking up speed along the forest floor, moon-spangled skin gave way to golden softness. Pale fingers became strong black paws, five gorgeous flowing tails trailing out behind her. Scents and sounds became sharp and heady, the very scent of moonlight filling her nose to the point of euphoria. As large as a direwolf, with a coat that splashed sunset fire and paws that threw up stars where they met earth, she ran and yelped, howled and leaped, stretching her nose and fanning her tails in obeisance and for the Silver Lady’s delight.

The first spring full moon, the air full of blossoms and new life, the many-tailed fox ran free in the blue-white light.

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Moments in Magical Modernity: VII


VII.

On Sunday mornings, the silvery peal of church bells can be heard ringing out over the city, calling to the devout and the believers, the lost and the hungry.  Places of worship fill with those who arrived weary and leave with beatific faces. But the churches are not the only places filled with the faithful, human and magical alike.

In a small apartment, an aged, bent, great grandmother sprinkles salt over and lights a warm candle near the lovingly-framed photographs of her children and grandbabies. Salt and light.

In a bare-branched, snowy copse, a frost fairy etches designs in ice on the ancient trees. Runes of renewal, healing, community, the hearth. With delicate fingers, she arranges jeweled webs, diamine dream catchers, between spindly branches stretched towards a winter-blue sky.

On star-hidden nights, silver-threaded, constellation-shot, blue velvet is hung over the beds of gargoyle children, folded snugly in their wings, so they know they are seen, loved, and protected by the skies they will soar.

Small groups gather in the warmth of the Hollow to talk about God and truth, faith and practice and impact. Pearla fills coffee mugs and tea cups, and Kingsley provides dishes of soup that warm hearts and open souls. Under the Hollow’s peaceful roof, debates are held, disagreements acknowledged, insights shared, and hearts encouraged. Souls often leave a little lighter, hooves, paws, feet, and wings moving a bit more briskly, and hands and hearts feeling maybe just a little fuller.

Hold But Gently


A year ago, I posted an article about seeing others and being seen by others and just what such a venture takes on either/both sides of the mirror. As I thought about that in the context of gentleness, I realized just how much that it [gentleness] is also a requirement of seeing and being seen.

In order to see others in their all, in their good and their bad, in their not enough and too much, we need to be willing to hold them gently, hold them loosely. We need to allow them to tremble and shudder but remain near. We need to not hold them too tightly but still stay close in their hard. Not to squeeze too firmly but to let them step back and breathe when they need to do so. To see someone, we must hold them gently and let them know that they are safe, un-judged, and free to be themselves, whatever that may mean.

Gentleness also goes hand-in-hand with being seen. In order to be seen, we need to be gentle with ourselves. We need to allow ourselves to believe that, yes, someone does in fact want to be a friend to our flawed self. Yes, someone does in fact care, and, no, we are not being a burden on their lives. They care about and love us and we can at least show ourselves enough gentleness to let them.

Being seen is frightening and dangerous. Let’s hold ourselves gently in our fear, reminding ourselves that rejection, though it will hurt if it happens, it will not be the end of us. We may be busted but we won’t be broken beyond repair. We may be hurt but not beyond healing. On the other side, we may find ourselves met with arms wide open and our heart cradled gently in loving hands. It is always the chance we take and the hope we harbor: being seen and accepted.

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Fragile. Handle with Care: Being Gentle With Myself


I have been sick, quite sick, for the past month. Actually, I haven’t been able to shake this cold/sinus stuff since September (yay for teaching and a toddler starting preschool). Nevertheless, the New Year came and with it the time to start on my goals, one of the chiefest being to get back into a healthy routine of activity and exercise. This past semester has just shattered my momentum and I have lost a good deal of what I worked for two years to gain. So I start again. But, because of being sick (and because, you know, breathing is a thing), I am having to start back slowly. Too much activity will leave me wheezing and coughing, my throat sore and dry. So I am having to be extra gentle with myself, not something I am used to doing. I am used to pushing myself. I want to push, pull, work, strive, and mold myself back into that shape and tone that I was so proud of back in July. So, right now, it is proving hard to handle myself gently, but I have to or else I will hurt myself and ruin any chance of continuing towards my goal for the foreseeable future. I have to listen to when my body cries “Enough!” and believe that, for the nonce, it really is (and has to be) enough.

This year’s word of intention is gentleness and, ironically, here I am: at the beginning of the year, having to apply that gentleness to my own self. I am having to sit down when I come home from work. Perhaps the dishes go undone or the laundry unfolded of a night as I choose to lie on the couch instead, after Daughter has been put to bed, and I’m having to remind myself that doing just that is okay.  I have never been good at being gentle with myself, so I have found that I need reminders. The graphic below from Alia Joy – Writer‘s likewise-title article is now the lock screen graphic on my phone. I have a chalkboard that hangs in my kitchen and on it is the quote: “Be easier on yourself. If being hard on yourself worked, it would have worked by now.” These are reminders that I have to keep on repeat in my mind and in my heart. I find it ever so much easier to say them to others, admonish gentleness with themselves, and believe their truth than I do when I am the one in need of the reminder. But I do need it. I need gentleness, too! Particularly from myself.

So, while it is frustrating and a bit galling to have to slow down and just concentrate on the small things in my goals for now, it is what I need. I need to hold myself softly and gently for, right now, no matter how I may feel mentally, I am physically a bit fragile, so I have to let my ability catch up to my determination.

It is okay for you to be gentle with yourself, too. If you think you need permission, you have it. There are times when we all are fragile and need handling with care. So, as we continue on into the second week of this new year, let’s check in on how we are handling ourselves, how we are treating ourselves. Could you use a little gentleness, a little lightening of the goals, of the have-to’s? If so, do it. Be gentle with yourself. I know it’s hard and I know the fear of falling behind/failing/losing our place/etc. is always there, but know that you aren’t alone. We all could a little gentleness from ourselves now and then and it’s worth it to learn to give it. And I’m learning to believe that.

 

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Graphic from and belonging to Alia Joy’s post on incourage.me

 

Snowy Globe


Have you ever noticed how snowfall makes car headlamps (and even street lamps) look different? It’s almost like a globe that softens the light. It becomes a warm, soft almost candle-like glow rather than a bright orange spear of light. It’s comforting on those snowy, late-evening drives, almost like we are indeed partners and neighbors in this pace of life.

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Holding the Days with Gentleness


2016 is almost over and what a year it’s been. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it now that I sit and think about it but I will try to put word to thought.

This year, my watchword was grace—to give grace as well as to recognize it when it is given me and to also give it to myself. I have spent this year trying to be mindful of opportunities to show grace, as well as to accept it when I receive it. I also worked to be mindful of opportunities to study and explore grace and its facets. This year, I spent my NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) in November centering my writings on grace. I explored what I knew, what I have experienced, though, and considered, and even found new levels of thought on what it means to give grace, experience it, choose it, and even to be graceless. It was, honestly, one of the best writing experiences of my life and it renewed a desire in me to write, and I am determined to write as often and as much as possible in the coming year.

This year, I went back to teaching full time. It was a quick decision after many, many applications, interviews, and then coming to terms with being home with Elizabeth for a final year. I got a call, interviewed, and made a decision all in two to three days. I had to sacrifice some things, such as seeing my baby off on her first day of daycare/preschool, but I knew that it was the right decision for my family. Has it been easy, such a quick and large life transition? No, not really, and it has taken me almost the entire semester to feel as though I have found my feet or that I belong in teaching again (still not entirely sure on the latter but for now, functional will do). I am still struggling a bit to find a life balance again—to find the correct levels in time for daughter, husband, my self-care, and my writing–but I have learned and am learning a great deal from the teachers and students I am working with now. At the same time, my girl is enjoying school and missing her friends now that we are at the tail end of Christmas vacation. She is doing wonderfully, growing quickly, learning so very much, and I am thankful beyond measure for that.

My husband has just completed a leadership development program, which I am buttons-bursting proud of him for sticking with. I know that it was a testing for him and I am ever so proud of his perseverance and determination to get everything out of it that he could. He works hard each and every day and gives all he can as a teacher and a pastor and I am constantly awed and inspired by him. This year, we celebrated ten years of marriage surrounded by friends and full of laughter and good food. It was the best method by which to celebrate (well, that and the new Star Trek film) and I am so glad that we were able to do so. I love you, darling, today and every day and even beyond that.

As 2016 ends, I have been thinking and praying about a watchword, a word of intention for the coming year. This year’s word was grace and the year before was intentioned by courage and kindness. So far, the word that has come to me is gentleness. What does it mean to be gentle? To act and react, listen, speak, and be with gentleness?

With all the fear, the worry, the anger, the darkness, what does it mean for me to be gentle? How can I be gentle with the hearts that are afraid and hurting? How can I be gentle with those who do not understand or don’t want to?

How can I be gentle with my dear ones? Gentle with their feelings, their thoughts, with honesty, in my reactions and discipline as we raise our daughter, with my loved ones’ precious hearts and souls?

How can I be gentle in my job, with my students and coworkers, with their humanity that may break out in difficult ways sometimes, much like my own?

How can I be gentle in my faith, in speaking love and kindness and giving grace to others? In following the example of the God I claim to believe in and the Jesus I claim to follow?

How can I show gentleness in my craft, in what I write and how I post on social media, the corners that I build in the world around me, both real and online? How can I be gentle and bold and courageous at the same time?

I want to hold what people give me, what they trust me with, gingerly and carefully. I want to be gentle with souls, with words, with trust, with hearts and feelings. I want to do this for others because I know how much I want it for me. I want people to be gentle with me, with my thoughts, feelings, words, hopes, dreams, heart, and soul. Just as I know how much I need grace and so I try to give it, so it goes with gentleness. I know how much I desire it; why should others not be the same? Why should I not try to give the reactions that I would want to receive?

Everyone is going through or has gone through something; everyone could use some gentleness in a world so rough and tumble. This year may be hard, this year may be scary, but I will not let that stop me. I will not let it harden me either. I will not let it take my softness away but, if anything, I will let it increase, let it seep into my touch, fill my words, prompt me to listen more than I speak. May this coming year find me holding others with gentleness and radical love, continuing to act in grace, having courage, and being kind.

Farewell, 2016.

Welcome, 2017. I call you blessed and look forward to what we have to learn together.

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