A Survival Guide to Christmas for Singles and Those who Love Them: Part 3

IMG_0651I love Valentines Day. I know, this post is actually about Christmas, but just go with me on this one.

I. LOVE. Valentines Day.

It is one of my favorite holidays. And, it is a day where most, at least in the US, are focused on romantic love. He thinks about the significant other in his life and she dreams about the outfit she’ll wear for the overly anticipated, highly pressured date. It is a day where romantic relationships are at the forefront and it is day in which, though I have only been in a romantic relationship one time on the holiday (excluding of course 1st grade where I checked the box for YES I will be your girlfriend on every manila valentine I received) I thrive.

The same quality that gives me an incredible delight in a day where Cupid is King and Hallmark sells more movies about love and the pathetically single finally finding their soul mate, is the same quality that allows me to not only survive but thrive during the Christmas season:

Perspective

Perspective is key.

This is true in all circumstances. Perspective is choosing to believe that God is good in all things, that he is in Charge, that His love for me is beyond comprehension, that He knows me, and He cries with me. He endures along my side. He is for me and beside me. He will always be my rescue. He is always for my good. And, He will always be ready to bless me, even when I am in the presence of my enemy.

There are all kinds of enemies presented during the Christmas Season. Loneliness. Self-hatred. Regret. Disappointment. Despair. Worthlessness. Shame. Rejection. The emotions felt are not the enemies, but the lies told within the feelings are invitations to agreements with the enemy of truth.

When we make an agreement with the lie often whispered in our feelings, our perspective follows.

For instance, when I feel sadness because I have a desire to be married or be a mom and that sadness turns to self accusation, comparison and blame it begins to nudge me to believe, “You are alone. No one sees you. You are worthless. No one will choose you. God isn’t good, He is holding out on you!

When I make an agreement with these phrases, my perspective shifts and I turn inward. I hide or I begin to resent others who have what I want. When I make agreements with the enemy of truth, the enemy of life, I turn away from God, self and others and risk becoming isolated and brittle. 

But, what happens when I choose to feel the sadness and hear the invitation of Jesus?

When I do not allow my circumstances or feelings to dictate my belief, perspective or behavior I can engage the story I am in, holding the truth of God and His good in my life. He is not holding out on me. He is not against me. He has not abandoned me. I was made in His image and my life, right now, has incredible value. I am strengthened by the truth and I know joy. 

It is when I am able to say, “God I am sad, Yet you are good!” that I am able to walk through whatever circumstance and felt emotion with joy, strength, grace and mercy. It is here that I receive the love of the Father, instead of trying to outsource it to someone or something else.  And it is here, where the blessing of Jesus enfolds me and the Holy Spirit reminds me that I get to be a conduit of His blessing in the lives of others.

This is why I love Valentine’s Day and this is why I can love and thrive during the Christmas season. My perspective shifts from being focused on my own felt lack to a perspective of abundance.

God is a God of abundance, not lack.

He gives out of His abundance.

He loves me out of his abundance and he invites me to love others out of the overflow of my connection with him. (read that again)

Because I believe that God is good

and I believe that I am His

and I believe that He has given me the ability to live as a person of blessing in the world,

these days are filled with opportunity to live the Royal Life of a Son or Daughter of a really good King, and, like Jesus, bring his blessing as far as the curse is found. 

This perspective has catalyzed adventure, created in me a sense of belonging and has spread the love of the Father.

Adventures like, On Valentine’s Day I have taken my niece and nephews out. We would go to the store, buy candy, write on Valentine’s Day cards and pass them out to strangers in parks, coffee shops, drop them off at friends and deliver them to neighbors. As we shared a small act of love, I knew joy.

It is simple. When my perspective is based on God’s goodness and my belonging to him, I treat others as I would like to be treated. I do for others, what I would want done for me. 

During the Christmas season I do the same. I take my lack and I ask God to bless it and I step with him to live in His abundance.

This year it looks like this:

  1. I would love to have tea parties with my own children. A little cheesy, yes, but I am cheesy. So, I am hosting a Christmas tea this Saturday for many of my friends’ children. I think there will be close to 30 of us. Shepherds are going to come and tell the story of how they met baby Jesus, we will do a craft and have a snow ball fight with newspaper.
  2. I want to host Christmas parities with someone and fill tables with people. So, a friend and I rented a mansion and are having a dinner for nearly 80 people, to remember, break bread, and reflect on the One who invites us to be Still. We will all get fancied up and I do not have to do it alone. We invited people who might also want the same thing. I think many of those on staff at my favorite coffee shop might join us.
  3. I want to be remembered. So every time I think of someone during this season I do something about it. I write, call, text, comment, tweet, or simply stop by.
  4. I want to feel seen and a sense of belonging to someone. So, I bake for my neighbors, write them each a card and let them know that they are seen and they belong.
  5. I want to go get a Christmas tree with my person. And, I actually get to go cut down a tree with my people. I’m not afraid to be a part of my married friend’s lives and traditions. I participate instead of opt out. (If you want to have a tradition! Create it! If you don’t want to do it alone. Ask someone.)
  6. I love to create experiences for people, because I love to experience things with people. A friend is coming into town and will be doing a home Christmas Concert at another friends home.
  7. I don’t like wrapping presents alone, so I ask others to come and wrap with me.
  8. I am not always a fan of decorating alone and I’ve asked a friend to decorate my tree with me.
  9. I have Christmas card parities, friends over to bake, people over to watch the cheesy Christmas movies and I give myself permission to create the traditions I need, even if my whole biological family isn’t involved.
  10. I go to a midnight carol service, usually alone.
  11. I drive around and look at lights and put on music often alone.
  12. I sit in my favorite leather chair and feel all the feelings, listen to the music, cry the tears the need to be cried and receive the abundance of the Father’s love for me, who so lovingly gave his son to meet us with blessing.

The lie and the curse want to be the reality of my, of your, story and perspective. When I choose to receive the love of the Father for me, when I receive Jesus, my lack becomes an overflow of His abundance and his blessing comes to me and through me as far as the curse is found

Joy To The World

Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room

And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods
Rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make
His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found

Read more: Christmas Carols – Joy To The World Lyrics | MetroLyrics

 

 

 

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Day 34 of telling my truth: Spring

IMG_1252Today my truth is:

I love spring. I love the sun. I love the feeling of the unexpected greeting me. I love the sound of birds and the evidences of new life springing up all around.

Yesterday I got to go for a bike ride. It was so good to be out. I even got burned by the sun. I don’t mind at all my goofy tan lines. In fact, I love them.

As I stated yesterday I see most everything through the eyes of metaphor and through the lens of Jesus and Kingdom. I met a friend for a walk this morning at 7. It wasn’t cold, I wore sun glasses, I didn’t have to move to warm. As I walked I soaked in the fresh air, buds on trees, grass turning to new shades of green, and flowers lining the trail. The winter is ending.

I so often identify with seasons and I must say that I am so glad that winter is ending.

With spring comes expectancy.

With spring comes new life.

With spring comes confidence.

With spring comes beauty, restoration and growth.

With spring comes deeper breaths and the knowing that Christ is risen… indeed.

These past few months have held challenge for me. Okay, life holds challenges for me. For each of us. There are times where the challenges feel as though they own me and where I give them permission to take up residence in unhealthy ways. Then there are times where challenges are brought to actually lead me to death. They dying of the old to make room for new.

This winter I have walked in dark and in the knowing of old dying. Much has died and these months of dying held both joy and sorrow. I’ve learned to hold both and know that it is actually a good thing to hold both, as the walk with Jesus and the walk in this life holds both.

As I walked today I reveled in the fact that so much of me is new too. I feel like, as a person, I keep getting better and better. I love who I am becoming. I love that I am feisty, filled with grace, and available for the good of others. I love that I value me enough to say no, to own my value and to walk tall with a confidence that comes from knowing who I am as a child of a really good King. This Lent practice of truth telling has been a significant part of that growth journey.

As spring sprouts in your neighborhoods, take some time to thank the Lord for death and new life. Thank him for that which He’s taken so that you might be in a place of receiving. Be at peace, taste joy and play.

Day 33 of telling my truth: Rambling thoughts on being misunderstood

bowlingToday my truth is:

I don’t like to be misunderstood. One of my friend’s knows this about me and at times she tells me things about myself with the caveat, “I know you don’t like to be told how you are, but…” It’s true, I don’t like to be told how I am. I don’t like it when people say, “Cari, you are this or that, you think this way or you act this way or respond in that way.” Just typing those sentences I feel my posture change and I get feisty.

Lately I’ve felt misunderstood. To be honest I’d love to be able to go prove myself and recount all the ways I was misunderstood and prove a case for the opposite, but that is not mine to do at this point. So, I am going to write here because it’s what’s on my mind as I tell my truth.

I care for people. I care deeply, not because I want to fix people, but because I love people so deeply that I so badly want to show people all the time how important they are to this world.

I do not always encourage or pray for people because I see a lack or a need or brokenness of any kind. But I encourage and pray for people because too often we only pray and encourage when there is need. I believe it’s important to act and prayers simply because I love.

I am awkward when I don’t know the expectation in relationships. I am very strategic in life, so if there are questions about where I stand, or who I am to someone, I become awkward and do not bring my free self, but a guarded self because I don’t know how to engage. When I know my role and where I stand relationship is remarkably free and easy and I’m confident and secure.

I may speak of my emotion or thoughts at various points, but those are emotions and thoughts are not the always the constant reality. Sometimes it’s just what I feel in a moment. It’s important to be able to feel and speak in a moment, even if the thought is a passing thought or emotion. Those things do not have to be defining.

I can handle the truth from others. Even if it is uncomfortable, I’d rather have questions asked and uncomfortable things spoken than to be in a place of unknowing. This is a new truth for me. I have often assumed that people see me and the relationship I have with them with the same eyes and same honesty as me. I am learning that there are times when two different relationships are happening simultaneously. The importance of honesty in every relationship, the importance of not pretending, is paramount. I’m actually quite thankful for this lesson. Assumptions are hurtful, even when they are positive. Truth always leads towards life.

I often look through people to their hearts, past the exterior of what is in front of me. This is both good and at times very challenging. I think there are times where I see someone’s heart and jump to conclusions. This would mean that I can make assumptions or speak to things that are only meant to be seen for prayer as opposed to be spoken. I’m continuing to learn.

I share successes or exciting things not because I need others to be impressed or I gain anything from them, but because I get so excited and just have to share.

I cry. A lot. Not because I’m overwhelmed or distraught, but because I express emotion through tears. Happy ~ cry. Sad ~ cry. Stressed ~ cry. Peaceful ~ cry. Frustrated ~ cry. See something beautiful ~ cry. Hear a sad story ~ cry. See Jesus ~ cry. This is part Cari and part Jenkins. I come from a long line of criers.

I want good for people and the world so much that I get very passionate about it. I don’t do this because I feel it’s mine to fix, but because the brokenness is real and I long for a better world. I long for things to be made right. I need to learn how to engage the sadness of the brokenness and let it go.

I do not have it all together.

Faith is not always easy for me.

I listen to Jesus, but sometimes I hear wrong.

I need people to better me.

I am constantly learning.

I fear pride and when I see it in me I grieve.

I get disappointed.

I’m not always strong.

I at times question God’s goodness.

I get mad at God.

I sometimes think that God created me just to use me, not to delight in me.

I at times think if I was just this or that, that my life would look different.

I love Jesus so much it consumes me.

I see everything … yes I actually mean everything …okay to the best of my knowledge… everything… through the eyes of Jesus and the metaphor of life in Him, knowing there are two realities. I live in the reality of this world and the Kingdom.

I hold joy and sorrow simultaneously. And I do not like when I am boxed into one or the other.

I hold faith, belief and unbelief at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive.

I am conservative and liberal at the same time.

I do my best to stumble towards Jesus, to be like him and I need help along the way. I need your honesty, questions, challenges, input and feedback to grow. I invite it.

I think I dislike being misunderstood because it shows me that the other, the one misunderstanding and assuming, didn’t take the time to ask me questions or really get to know me. Or, they got to know a me that doesn’t exist and never asked to see if their perception was accurate.

BUT… This dislike is entirely me focused and that is the most difficult part of being misunderstood. It reveals my pride. So Lord, today I pray the words of St Francis, “May I seek first to understand rather than to be understood.”

This is my confession.

 

Day 32 of telling my truth: Self-discovery

I am going to give a brief update on this experiment. It has been quite the ride. Giving up pretending and speaking my truth has been one of the most impactful experiences I’ve had. As a result of giving up pretending I’ve grown to see how:

1. I with hold my truth for the sake of another’s comfort.

2. I protect myself from pain and discomfort.

3. I selfishly with hold my own needs, thinking it’s actually what is best, instead of being honest with my needs and allowing others to enter that space with me.

4. I am prideful about my ability to be a part of other’s stories and can hide in being needed.

5.  I often talk around things instead of speaking plainly. I can hide in language that sounds intelligent and grounded, even as I search.

6. I have hid from my own unmet desires and am becoming open to the tension of speaking desire even if it brings up unwanted feelings.

7. I have experienced the pain of rejection and was not overcome by it.

8. Pretending is natural and even though I’ve always thought of myself as an authentic person, intentionally choosing to NOT pretend has allowed me to see how often I’m tempted to present a more put together front. I am thankful for the mess of my humanity and how that humanity invites relationship instead of pushes others away. It is good.

9. I feel freedom and have increased my ability to speak the truth even at the expense of comfort! (this is a BIG deal for me)

10. I’ve also seen how my ability to bring truth, invites truth from others.

I am thankful.

Easter is coming and I have grown and continue to grow as I offer my truth to you and to those in my life.

Day 20 of truth telling: I don’t know how to pray

IMG_6506Today my truth is:

I don’t know that I know how to pray. I often wonder if the words I say are words that move God or if they are simply words that float around, landing no where. I pray daily. I pray hourly. I believe in prayer. I believe it is a great mystery. I believe that God cares. But I am not sure if prayer is really as much about moving the heart of God as much as it is about having my heart moved.

When asked what the work of the Lord is, Jesus answered, “To believe in the one who was sent.” That seems like odd work. It seems, in words, that it’s not that much work at all. Work has more to do with what I can accomplish and what I can do with my hands or how I spend my time or even preaching, teaching, and going into all the world. Isn’t that the work?

But Jesus’ answer was not, go into all the world, His answer was to believe.

In the years since reading this passage and coming to believe it is true, the work of prayer has become more about belief and changing my belief than it’s come about begging. Prayer has become a place where I do the work of belief. I pray so much, begging God to move that eventually I come to a place of deep belief that God is good. How that happens I do not know, nor do I understand. It seems a bit crazy that unanswered prayers would actually lead to deeper belief, but that is what has happened.

My prayers have become places of deep confession of unbelief and desperate cries of belief. Belief is work and it is life changing.

Prayer is a mystery and it is a mystery in which I’m so thankful to participate. For I know… that this work of wrestling to belief is actually changing me and is causing me to live differently. Belief is active. It is a full contact sport. It is not a matter of the mind alone. No, belief is the movement of complete trust. Belief is the man with the withered hand stretching out his hand, the blind man going to the pool to wash his eyes, the lame man picking up his mat to walk. Belief is the active movement of total agreement that God is capable of the impossible and has accomplished it in me or in any given circumstance.

It is the work of belief that tears of grief are met with the hand of God and the next step of obedience is taken. Yes, I don’t know how to pray, but I’m learning to believe. I think, somewhere in the belief I am able to pray and in that place Jesus connects me to the Father and He hears my prayers.

Day 18 of truth telling: Nothing

Today my truth is:

Today my secret is that there aren’t words in me for this blog and I’ll have to write again tomorrow. I just have too much on my mind and in my heart and it’s churning and working it’s way out and I don’t have the capacity to separate all my thoughts to create a cohesive blog.

I think being honest with myself, that this is what I have to give is important.

Sometimes the most honest gift we can give is the gift of silence. Today I’m going to be okay with that and offer it to you.

Day 17 of telling my truth: Hope grew from unanswered prayer

UnknownToday my truth is:

Breathe out. How in the world was I to process the fact that I had my first relationship, in my adult life and that, that relationship was layered with impossibility, faith and was mixed with issues highly uncomfortable, even controversial for most in my world. What would my parents say if they were to know that I had a boyfriend who identified gay? What about my mentors? Friends?

I laid in bed the night he told me his story and asked me to be his girlfriend and asked the Lord to reveal himself. What do you have to say Jesus? Why would you give me this story? Self-pity, angst, hopelessness, frustration, questions and very few answers whirled in my mind like the tornado that first brought Dorothy to Oz.

I had a boyfriend. Joy.

My boyfriend was gay. Confusion. Sadness. Frustration. Questions. Dependence.

To what would I hold?

I asked Jesus how I was to pray and where I was to find my hope. I felt Him say, “Cari you are not to place your hope in this relationship or in the dream of Matthew wanting you in the way you want a man to want you. You are to place your hope in me alone.” I remember sitting there and saying aloud, “God I trust you. You are the One in whom I place all of my hope. May I be obedient in this relationship.” Tears streamed down my face. The reality of my situation felt like too much and God felt incredibly close.

As the weeks and months unfolded I came to live into the reality of those words. Matthew and I wrestled with questions. He told his story of begging the Lord to rescue him. He told of the groups he had joined to “cure” him. He spoke to the isolation, loneliness, rejection and hatred he had experienced. He spoke of his wrestling with God because how could a God who loved him, not answer this prayer. I asked how could God not bring the healing I felt was that for which he most longed. (These questions were close and intimate for him. His wrestling and mine were and are different. I bring up these questions because these became my questions. We engaged these questions quite differently. Where and how these questions were answered, again led us to different places. I am only telling my side of the story, for his story is not mine to tell.)

I learned as I was invited deeper and deeper into the reality of his struggle with sexual identity and Jesus. I too wrestled with Jesus. How come you don’t just take it away? How come you simply don’t come down and deliver him and give him what he wanted? These questions became mine. I begged the Lord for a particular outcome and felt heart ache and confusion over the fact that God wouldn’t answer how I thought most beneficial. I eventually had to ask the Lord to show me how to pray for I did not know what was right or good. I felt short sighted and lost as to what was best. Where was God in this?

God would remind me, “Cari, your hope is to be in me and my character, not in the fulfillment of a wish.” I thought through the stories of others who have begged Jesus for various things and not had their prayers answered. I thought of Jesus, who he himself begged the Father, if there be another way please let this cup pass from me and then said, “but not my will but yours.” I wrestled with matters of belief. I questioned how I should pray. I begged, cried, wrestled and quite honestly yelled at Jesus.

Jesus became so real to me in those days. In my questioning, in the felt silence, in the moaning and weeping Jesus grew in me a great hope. He grew in me an understanding that hope and the fulfillment of wishes were actually quite different things. He used these months with Matthew to separate circumstance from hope. Hope became the lens through which I was to view each day. I clung to Jesus with great hope like the survivor of a boating accident clinging to her life preserver in the middle of the open seas.

March 20th came. We had had a series of very difficult conversations. There was a heaviness and though we had made it five months, to the day, the reality of our situation ended up weighing heavy upon Matthew (and me, though I didn’t want to recognize it). He decided it was time to end our relationship. In the midst of the conversation he said something to the effect of, “Cari, the one thing that is most difficult for me is that I have destroyed your hope.” He finished the thought with some other words, but I didn’t hear them. Matthew had ended a relationship, but my hope was in no way threatened. In fact, my hope was strong.

I remember that I smiled, maybe even laughed, I know I did internally, but don’t quite know if I did aloud or not. (You know how memories get cloudy around emotional situations.) I looked at him and said with confidence, “You have done nothing to my hope, for my hope was never in you. My hope has always remained in the Lord. In fact, the Lord told me I was to never put my hope in you, but place it only in Jesus and his character. I did just that and I continue to know great hope.”

As I look back on my relationship with Matthew, this realization is one of the gifts I was given. I was given the gift of hope. I was given the reality of what happens when I place my hope not in the fulfillment of a wish, but in the character of the One who holds my wishes. I was and still am thankful. This is the kind of hope that breathes life in the the most impossible of circumstances. This kind of hope is what comes from belief in the midst of impossible. This kind of hope comes from persevering through darkness and felt suffering and growing in character. This kind of hope is the hope that is found in fairy tales, where ultimate good is known as one believes that his or her ultimate good is held by someone or something who only desires their good.

Today, I have hope. It is a hope that is strong and it is a hope that grew out of stepping into the color of the impossible and watching as God, who is good, developed in me a deep and intimate understanding of His desire for my good.