The Work of Christmas is for Me, Too.


As this new year begins, this is me. Full disclosure: total bathroom selfie. No glasses, no makeup, hair undone, no filters. Just me.

As 2019 begins, I am considering the work of Christmas, that work that began on Christmas Day and continues on from there. The work of love. One of the things that I am going to be working on is loving myself. I know very well what I have been struggling with, one of the chief things being building more rest into my everyday life. Not just waiting for spring, summer, or Christmas breaks to actually try to rest in that admittedly limited space but acknowledging my need for it as I go along throughout my normal days and weeks.

The work of Christmas needs to begin with me, as much as it needs to involve others. As a dear friend reminded me, I need to love myself and give myself as much grace and permission as I give others.

So here I am, just me, and I am going to work on loving myself better.

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Nudging the Door Open (NYE 2018)


As today dawned, I realized that I had nothing prepared to post. No reflection, no little story indicative of where my heart and mind are right now. Nothing was prepared. Even now, sitting in my daughter’s darkened room while she falls asleep, writing by the light from the hallway, I am tempted to feel like I failed by being too busy or full-minded to give this year much thought. But, then again, it has been a busy, full-minded year. I spent a good portion of this year feeling and being not altogether myself. Stress took a heavy toll in the first half of 2018, as did change the resulting different routines and schedules. I finally made a significant health change earlier this fall that seems to have helped immensely with some of my balance and peace of mind, along with some emotional and mental work and growth. It’s been heavy lifting and it’s not over yet, but I feel that I am better for it.

2018 was a year full of change, both for myself and for dear ones close to me, and also a year of some beautiful, joyful moments.  I was gifted with the most amazing birthday in years by my loving husband and dear friends (I’m still chuffed from that, too). I also had the opportunity to throw off adulthood and run away to Disney and Harry Potter World for a Dapper Day weekend with a girlfriend. It was utterly splendid!

As this New Year’s Eve wanes, I hear the wind howling outside the windows of my house, and I find myself hoping that it will sweep away the figurative dark and dank and cold, the literal scary and disappointing and painful of this year, sweeping the doorstep clear for the new one.

So I will unlock the door and nudge it open to let the cool, end-of-year air sweep through to see 2018 out and usher 2019 in. It may stand there on the doorstep, blinking in the light, confused and maybe a little scared, just as we are. For a long moment, we may stand there staring at it and it at us. I hope we will take a deep breath and step forward to meet the new year with kindness, courage, determination, and truth.

So happy New Year, dear ones. May your year and selves be blessed.

The Work of Christmas


As Christmas Eve waited on deck this week, I found myself apologizing to my husband. Apologizing that our Christmas hadn’t been more special, more meaningful, more full of sweet, reflective moments. He just cradled my face, kissed me, reassured me that it had been just fine, and, more importantly, my pastor/husband reminded me that Christmas had not even begun yet. And you know what? He was right. Christmas hadn’t begun yet and neither had its work. The work of Christmas starts with Christmas Day. It is literally the first day of Christmas and its work continues on from there.

What does that mean, though: the work of Christmas? Jesus came to live, see the unseen, love the unloved, give His life for all, and offer a place to everyone. His work was love, and that work began with His birth. So how do we do the work of Christmas? We love. How do we love? We love by encouraging. We love by defending. We love by not giving up. We love by not giving in. We love by respecting. We love by swallowing our opinions and listening to the drop and opening of others’ hearts.

We do the work of Christmas by loving, by forgiving, by standing in the gap, by hearing, by listening, by speaking up when necessary. Christmas began yesterday, the old year is on its way towards the door, and we have an entire new one coming in which to do Christmas’s work. Will you join me in carrying Christmas throughout the whole of the year? No matter what you celebrate, what you call it, will you help me do the work of love this year? Will you help me set the world on fire with it in 2019? I could use your help, dear friend. Thank you.

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.

Gentleness: Our Power Under Control


A long while ago, a friend sent me a quote and its poignancy has sunk deep into the fibers of my brain and heart.

“It’s like being in love: giving somebody the power to hurt you and trusting (or hoping) they won’t.”

Marina Abramović, Rest Energy

When I speak of (and write about) love in gentleness, I don’t mean a lamb-meek, soft-as-kittens, never-raises-my-voice kind of gentleness. What I mean by gentleness is the recognition of humanity in ourselves, our need for grace and mercy, and the pouring out of what we so deeply need onto others, recognizing that they, too, share this flawed, fallible thing called humanity. Gentleness is our choice to be for and respond to others what and how we ourselves have often most needed. If love is indeed giving someone the means and power to destroy you and trusting them not to do so, then gentleness is giving to others what we so desire for ourselves: grace, mercy, and understanding.

Gentleness has also been defined as power under control. We all bear extraordinary power in the lives of others–power to heal or to harm, power to give life or to take it away–and gentleness is choosing the merciful road, to heal and to give life with our words and actions. Gentleness is choosing to bring that power under control, to use it to do good to those into whose lives we act, speak, and interact. As Jennifer Dukes Lee wrote: “Our words always fold into the souls of other human beings. That is no small thing.” How many of us think of or remember that? Of how far or deeply our words can go into the souls of others? Our words, our reactions, and our responses can often make all the difference in and to someone’s heart. An ungentle word, a rash response, these things can sometimes do irrevocable and lasting damage, even though it takes less than a moment to happen and be over.

Gentleness cradles the trust that someone has placed in us, holds it softly and lovingly, recognizing their humanity calling out, and responds with the understanding of our own humanity and fallibility. Gentleness sees what we have needed and responds by being that person for someone else. Our power is put to the good of another’s soul.

Together, we can show gentleness, we can be the person that we have needed for someone else. We can bring the power we have, wrap it in love, and speak life to someone else who may be standing in the same hard place(s) where we have stood.

Sparrow on human hands

Do You?


 

do-you-love-me

Photo credit – https://brokenbelievers.com/2016/12/17/do-you-really-love-me/do-you-love-me/

 

“Do you even love me?”

I felt my heart drop into my shoes and break. It was asked with such uncertainty. Did they really doubt it so much that they had to ask that question?

“Do you really not know?” I whispered.

“You never say it!” was the protest.

I realized then. It was true. In a big way, we often have convinced ourselves (or been trained) to hear love and to only hear love. But don’t we have four other senses, too? This person, this one who meant so much to me. They waited so intently to hear three specific words that they missed the abundant translations of it that I tried to convey every single day.

They didn’t or maybe couldn’t see my love when I took their car to get serviced before the winter’s first snap and snow.

They couldn’t taste my love in the favorite recipe that I learned to surprise them. (And all the burnt failures I hid in the trash out back.)

They couldn’t smell my love when I filled the sink with their favorite flowers so that we could place them all over their abode.

They didn’t feel my love when I held their hand, kissed their knuckles or shoulder, stroked their hair back, or tucked them gently into bed when sick or exhausted.

They had been taught and trained and could only believe love was real if they hear it and only when they heard it. The tree had to fall in order to make a sound. But do not trees also rustle, rumble, groan, snap, and sigh?

“Do you even love me?”

I reached out and took their hand as gently as I could.

“Yes. Yes, I do. I am telling you all the time.”

My Independence Day Declaration


Here is what you need to know about me and my faith.
I am a Christian. I believe that there is a God. I believe that Jesus of Nazareth is His son, as recorded in the accounts in the Bible. I believe that Jesus suffered a horrible death on a Roman cross, a death which He did not deserve, to serve as the last sacrifice to be made for humanity’s redemption in God’s eyes. I believe that Jesus rose from the dead after three days, displaying power over death and judgment.
I deeply believe that Jesus’ greatest teachings are those about love and that love is God’s greatest command: for us to love Him and others.
I am here to love you.
No one will ever convince me that my faith is useless, pointless, or not worthwhile. I am not here to convince you, condemn you, or shame you. I am not here to browbeat you, make you feel less, or call you wrong.
I am here to love you.
No one will ever convince me that hatred is Christlike or Godly. No one will ever convince me that one person is more deserving of love, grace, help, or good than another simply because of the color of their skin, their religion/belief system/lack thereof, their gender, or their sexuality.
I am not here to hate you.
I am here to love you.
This is my declaration. This is my calling.
I am a Christian. I believe in God’s command to and Jesus example of love. I am here to love you.
I love you. That’s it.
And you know what? No one and nothing is going to stop me.
**Featured Photo by http://frenchpressmornings.com. Please go check out Jenny’s beautiful stuff.