I love Valentine’s Day: A confession from a 39 year old single woman

Pink-HeartI woke up today to a text from a friend wishing me a Happy Valentine’s Day! I am single, 39, have dated very little, have only had a significant relationship on Valentine’s day once, not of course including the many Valentine’s of my early childhood… (you know who you are). I have a desire to be married, at times I struggle with feelings of loneliness and have waves of feeling invisible. I would love to have someone give me flowers, write me poems (okay maybe not write me poems… but maybe), dress up like adult babies and shoot me with arrows in the shape of hearts; but these are not currently a part of my story. At times I grieve their absence, but I do not grieve them today. For this day, Valentine’s Day, is not a day of receiving, it is a day of giving.

Love is a tricky topic. It is our deepest longing. And, I’d be lying if I told you I feel strong in my singleness every day. Many days I am content with life as is, some days are filled with such extreme loneliness that I can hardly see the good, some days I celebrate the fact that I’m single and then there are days I want to post on some social media outlet, “Hey you all, want to set me up?!” And then, thankfully, I choose to back myself down off that train. 

Valentine’s Day for many, like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving or even the Fourth of July can harken such feelings of unmet desire it can be very difficult to get through the day without at least one emotional breakdown. Many shut down on these days all together because of their own pain, longings and struggles. The day being celebrated may be a day to remember someone who played a roll in your life, to celebrate an event, to remember the people around you, to look out… these are all good things. Holidays and celebrations are outward facing events, which often surface inward lack, struggle or desire. But when we, when I, focus only on the inward pain, I miss the point all together. 

Like so many things we make important days about us. I catch myself doing it often. I’ll be at an event where I’m to celebrate someone and their life step and all I can see is my own lack or how I’ve not met the mark or not made it quite as far as I would have liked and I pity myself. When I do so, I forget a key element of relationship found in Romans 8. Paul when writing about love and relationship, begins with a command: rejoice with those who rejoice. He then moves on to mourn with those who mourn. Both commands are externally focused commands. They are commands of empathy, choosing to enter into someone’s story, pain, joy, struggle and excitement with them, feeling it with them, not because it’s your pain too or even your happiness, but because you love that person. 

When I pity myself on Valentine’s day, Christmas, Mother’s day, or when I’m at a wedding, baby shower or perhaps at an event where someone is being celebrated publicly for something for which I want to be recognized, I am missing the point and I am not loving. Self pity is a form of victimhood and I am unwilling to be a participant. This may sound harsh and in no way am I discounting the fact that there is pain involved in deep longings that are unmet, but when I focus on self alone I am not loving. 

I love Valentine’s Day, not because I have a Valentine. I do not love Valentine’s Day because I have a lot of loving people in my life, though I do. I do not love Valentine’s Day because of what I get out of it. I love Valentine’s Day because it is a love free for all. I get to speak words of good and kindness to others and be as cheesy as I’d like. I love Valentine’s Day because I love watching other’s rejoicing. I love Valentine’s Day because I love watching men and women scurry for a last minute something or other to pick up to give a token of love, kindness or remembrance. I love Valentine’s Day because it’s premise is love, yes it’s twisted, slightly over dramatic and materialistic, but in its purist form, this day is about looking out and giving of yourself for the good of others. 

Would I one day like to have a Valentine for which I can buy ugly red socks,  make a homemade card or send a singing telegram? Most certainly, but on this day, I choose to lay aside my want, my lack, my unmet desire to rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn and love with lavish unhindered words and actions every person I think of and run into. Will you join me? Will you step back, take a look at your expectations for this day and then choose to love outwardly? There is no guaranty, but, if you choose to love well every person you come in contact with today, you might be surprised by days end just how loved you feel. 

 

 

Just the beginning: 25 lessons from my time in Spain

IMG_7001My time in Spain is rapidly coming to an end. I can already feel the shift in my spirit as I look to what is next. I’ve settled into a good pattern here in Altea. I’ve established good friendships. I’ve lived a very healthy life as I’ve eaten well and worked out daily. I’ve made it without being stung by stingrays or jellyfish in the Sea. I’ve spent good time with Jesus and I’ve planned ahead for my fall back in the States. I want to be able to leave Altea having completed the work I came to accomplish and to be prepared for life back in the States so I can enjoy my travels without anything left lingering in my mind.

As I reflect on my time in Altea I’m thankful for that which I’ve been reminded of, lived into or learned. Here’s a brief look:

1. Mission is not something we go off to do, it is a way of living. This can not be said enough. When mission is something we travel to participate in we actually miss mission. Mission is a way, not an event! There are times when we must travel to experience mission in other parts of the world, but on a whole mission is not something one has to travel to participate in!

2. Significance in impact or work is not determined numerically or by recognition. Significance is a matter of the Kingdom. When we pursue Him and His way and our work flows out of this pursuit our work is always significant.  Loving is always significant.

3. Speaking is only a small part of communication: Smiles, a generous heart, a kind spirit and love go far beyond words and communicate the truths one believes.

4. Making life change for the approval of others will ultimately fail. Making life change as a result of being self controlled, driven by the Spirit and out of love, will remain and will transform the whole person.

5. Friends are easily made when every person we come in contact with is seen as the image barer of God that they are.

6. Being led is a gift, when being led by a good person. Being led is a part of the feminine journey. (It is also a part of the masculine journey, but I am learning things from my perspective and I had to learn how being led was a part of being feminine.)

7. Dancing really is freeing

8. Truth really truly sets a person free. And when truth invades one part of a person’s life, all parts begin to submit themselves to truth, freeing the total person.

9. Striving is useless. Submitting is powerful.

10. There is much to the feminine journey and I’ve embraced much of mine.

11. I like tomatoes

12. Being divided in heart will always effect ones contentment.

13. One does not put on or wear beauty or femininity, one’s beauty and femininity are a result of an internal belief.

14. The sea is always beautiful until jellyfish come to town.

15. Laughter is healing and is a beautiful counselor

16 . Generosity is contagious

17. Seeing people, really seeing people will often result in loving them

18. The sun is good for the soul

19. There is a small difference between complementing one’s purse in Spanish and actually calling them a nice purse.

20. There is a small difference between complementing one’s outfit in Spanish and actually calling them a nice outfit.

21. There is a small difference between complementing one’s hair in Spanish and actually calling them nice hair.

22. You get the point

23. Being honest about one’s life will open the door for others to be honest about their own.

24. The table is redemptive

25. God is jealous for us. He has a deep deep desire for all people, everywhere to know him. God is good and God wants us! He wants us! All of us! All of the time.

There are many more lessons learned, both serious and silly. I’d love for you to ask. I’d love to share them with you. I look forward to seeing how these two months of my life will shape the many years to come.

Thanks for going on this adventure with me.

A birthday party

1aabaa29bb8a1287b3b06ffaf0fad544It was Friday night. We had been in Alicante all day, come home, taken a siesta (for which I’m so thankful!) and now we’re sassying ourselves up for the big party. Ariana and Xara had met Gloria in their first week living in Spain over 10 years ago. She is a bold, vivacious woman. I had only been told stories, but tonight I was going to meet her.

On our way to the party we were to meet another woman, Pillar. We arrived late to meet her and before an introduction could be made, this very well dressed Spanish woman scolded Ariana for being late. Though I couldn’t understand what she was saying, her lips were moving quickly and her fingers were pointing to her watch and her tone held such a pitch it sounded as though she were a chicken about to hatch an egg. She was not happy with our tardiness. We rushed off to a local shop and purchased a gift for Gloria.

(It is the custom in Spain for the birthday girl/boy to throw the party, buy the meal, pay for the drinks and all. Much different than the states where when it’s your birthday you are treated to everything! All day. So it is customary to bring a gift to say I’m glad you were born and I’m grateful for your generosity. There is so much to learn simply from observing and asking questions. I wonder if I miss out on things in the states because I forget to ask questions to understand.)

I followed the three women as they rushed into the store. They held clothes up and discussed their feelings on what was chosen. They discussed size and color. They went back and forth with studious looks as they observed the clothing wanting to choose just the right thing. At one point I felt I was at an art gallery more than a clothing shop as each woman stepped back, put their hand on their chin, squinted and commented on the apparel  before them. It was delightful. Pillar and I had yet to be introduced and just as though she saw me for the first time, she looks over at Ariana and scolds her for not introducing me before. She made sure Ariana knew how rude it was that I’d been here all along and she didn’t yet know my name. I enjoy Pillar and her sass. She reminds me of no one I know and she is full of spice and vivaciousness.

Pillar and I were quickly introduced and I once again used my three year old Spanish. I told her it was nice to meet her and that I understood very little Spanish. She smiled and I smiled and all was good.

We were off! We walked quickly down the paseo, much like women on a mission. We headed directly for our restaurant and barely stopped to say hi to friends we passed along the way.

I must say I was a bit nervous. My brain was already tired from the long day of integration in Alicante and now I was off to another event. The party was full of people and one or two spoke some English, but I was really on my own. This I knew from the get go. We showed up, I kissed each person from the left cheek to the right cheek, as is the custom, I said my greeting and then I stood a bit awkwardly. It was as though I was in the 7th grade and was invited to a party where I knew no one. Everyone around was talking and laughing and carrying on. At one point I almost burst into tears, but instead I took that fiest and turned it into gumption and joined in. I was determined to make a friend, hear a story, get to know someone or at least look like I was. I wanted to communicate gratitude to Gloria for including me and I wanted to communicate that I valued these people and their culture.

I watched for a bit, making a strategy of who I’d talk to and also simply just soaking in the scene. So much was similar to a gathering in the US, but so much was different. There were children at the birthday party. Two of them, a 10 year old and a 3 year old ran around playing, sitting at the bar and talking with others at the restaurant. No one was bothered and the bar tender seemed to like them at his counter. There was a baby in his stroller off in a corner asleep, every once in a while someone would glance in that direction, but for the most part, he seemed to be content, as did his parents. The men stood together. There is power in numbers in this group. And there were only 2 men at the party. The guests were varied. I could tell people loved Gloria. She had friends from Norway, Holland, Portugal, the US and Spain. She had friends who were old and some who were quite young. She was indiscriminate about who was invited to her table as people came from various places and stages in life. I grew fond of Gloria, though we talked little. Her inner kindness was seen as was her loneliness. She loved well and was quite loved.

I watched just a bit more, when I saw a woman free who I knew spoke some English. (In the above picture)

She was from Holland, and was firey and very salty. She had beautiful features, hair white as snow and dressed with color and flare. She stood out from the moment she arrived. Her red lips and blue eyes told a thousand stories before she ever spoke. We talked about the failing economy and how Europeans are fearful that one person will step up in the midst of this crisis as one person did the last time Europe was in financial ruin. That person was Adolf Hitler. There was fear in her. There was resignation in her. There was kindness in her.

After she and I had concurred the world I sat down next to Xara. She and I spoke for a bit when a young boy with a blue shirt, crew cut, olive skin and probably stood just about to my chest came over to me.  He said with bold assurance, “Hello. Nice to meet you!” I complimented him on his English and I asked if he would teach me a few words in Spanish. For the next hour he and I laughed as he was my teacher and I was his student. He taught me the difference between pelo (hair), pedo (to fart), pero (dog) and perro (but). We’d act out or make noises where appropriate. The entire party was observing my lesson and I’m fairly certain they enjoyed every moment. I know that I did.

Pillar grew tired and in an instant she wanted to leave. She grabbed me by the arm and we headed off without Ariana. We got just beyond the restaurant when she yelled to Ariana. I don’t know what it was, but I’m fairly certain it went a little like, “Ariana! Are you coming or not? We will leave you! Stop your dancing and get over here!” I late found out Ariana had been asked to teach the women a certain dance move as she was leaving. This was fun to observe and Pelar yelled and made comments under her breath. I smiled happily as I soaked in all the goodness.

The three of us walked home together laughing and talking. I carried on as though I’d known Pillar for quite some time and as though I knew everything being said. About half way home Pillar told me we would get together on a Saturday in two weeks. I was going to learn Spanish from her. (Yes! One more teacher and Yes! more time with Pillar. She is so curious to me.)

We dropped Pillar off at her home and Ariana talked and laughed our way to Casa Teraza. I went straight to my room and felt complete contentment. It was an exhausting but rich and full and good day. I was so thankful.

It seems I’m constantly invited into situations that remind me to step out, be bold, step in and learn and listen and be comfortable with discomfort. This I know I will take home with me. In this I know I must learn what Jesus has for me. How will I be a better friend? How will I better love those around me? How will I own my own differences and be comfortable being amongst those different from me? I hope I will one day have a birthday party like Gloria’s. One that is filled with difference, generosity, generations and lots of laughter.

Until next time.

Adios.

The love/like paradigm. How you can’t do one without the other.

img-thingHave you ever been in a conversation with someone who was talking about a person who completely drives them crazy?  Have you ever heard a person talk about how they just don’t like someone? Have you ever known someone that has been difficult to like? It’s common, and in honesty I’ve had a few people in life that, like Rick Warren talks about, are just a little extra grace required.

As people who follow Jesus we often don’t know what to do when we don’t like someone. We know deep  within that we are to love others deeeply. We understand that as followers of Jesus we are to love every person with whom we come in contact. This creates a problem when our lives cross paths with someone that just rubs us the wrong way. Somehow this irritation needed to be justified by others in the past, so a new theology was created. I’m sure you’ve heard it, “I love them, but I don’t have to like them!”

Let me say that one more time. “I love him, I love her, but I don’t like him, but I don’t like her!” In someway this statement justifies our irritation or discomfort and justifies negative thoughts or emotions towards the person. I’ve heard this phrase from pulpits, preachers, dedicated followers of Jesus, authors and the like. It is a very popular belief and is in fact a lie.

The theological idea that we can love and not like is simply untrue.

Paul talks in both Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 about the body. He uses this powerful analogy to demonstrate how many parts and functions create one, beautiful fully functional and glorious body. Each part has value. Each part has equal value. Each part is beautiful. Each part is purposeful. Each part is experienced differently. Each part is needed. Our differences, that often are seen as irritants are in fact necessary parts of the body. Paul goes on to talk in 1 Corinthians 13 that all these parts are well and good, but if they perform their function absent of love, then the function is simply noise. Let’s see what love looks like: Love is patient. Love is Kind. Love does not envy. Love does not boast. Love is not rude. Love is not self-seeking. Love keeps no record of wrong. Love always trusts. Love always hopes. Love always perseveres. Love never fails.

As I read that description, I do not feel the freedom to say that I can not like someone and love them at the same time. I’ve come to realize that liking someone is all about me. I like certain colors, music, movies and such. I like something when it brings me enjoyment. Liking is a very self driven concept. It is a concept that drives me to avoid things that make me uncomfortable and ideas with which I don’t agree. Not liking something, an object, idea or place is completely understandable and is encouraged when seeking to live a life that follows after the way of Jesus. Not liking certain actions or behaviors is understandable as there are behaviors and actions that are contrary to what is good and right and perfect. But people are a whole different story.

People are the only thing in all of creation made image of God. Each person, was created with intension and purpose. Each person has a heart, mind, personality and way that was made with incredible intentionality. Psalm 139:13-17 says, “For you create my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast the sum of them!

Wow! Every single person was made by Creator God. Even those that drive me crazy. Even those who think and live differently. Even those who believe differently. Every single person bares the image of Creator.

I struggle loving all people. There are some that think so differently than me that I often jump to judgement and then I easily discount them by saying, I don’t have to like you, but I love you.

True love actually enables our ability to like. I have a friend who modeled this to me. She would have a colleague who would drive her crazy and instead of talking about how much that person irritated her, she would pray that God would give them one connection point. Without fail, God answered her prayer and these once annoying and irritating people, became friends. She laid herself down and sought to see the image of God in those around her. Every time, God revealed his image. And, when we see the image of God, it makes it pretty impossible to not like someone.

Yes, there are people who think differently. There are people who will drive you crazy. There are those who are so different that connection or enjoyment seems impossible. But, love is patient and kind and it’s not self-seeking. This kind of love drives us to pursue connection and enjoyment of those around us who are also image bearers.

So next time your path crosses with someone who just gets under your skin, instead of writing them off and justifying it in some way. Pray that you will see the image of God in him or her and love with action!

 

Drive out and Draw Close

Listen

Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. John 12:31-33

I want you to know that it is my deepest desire to draw all people to myself and to drive out the evil one from every corner of this earth. I long for people to come to me, for I know it is in me that life is found. I watch as the prince of this world seeks to devour those I love. I see him lie to children and plant seeds of self-contempt, loneliness, hatred, and inadequacy. I see him affirm lies in those I love as they grow. I see people search for meaning and want to know love. I watch them turn to false sources to meet these deepest needs. I watch hearts break. I hear desperate cries. I feel the pain of those I love. The prince of this world loves to kill, steal and destroy, it is his greatest pleasure to watch life come to ruin.

Too often you have believed his lies. You have held onto self-contempt as though it were your own truth. You look for ways to affirm the fact that your life has little value and you seek to find value and love in sources other than me. You go to others, things, activities and even your own self to satisfy your deepest longings for identity and value.

I tell you the truth. I am the way. I am truth. I am life. It is only in me that the prince of this world is destroyed and it is only in me that you will know value and identity. You cannot find life apart from me. You cannot find hope apart from me. You cannot work hard enough, do enough good, be liked by enough people, make enough money, own enough stuff to find value. Come to me as you are weary of these lies. Come to me as you need the restoration I alone can bring. Come to me as your source. Come to me, I will give you rest.

Pray

I pray that you will be drawn in to Jesus.

I pray that Holy Spirit will show you any place where you are holding onto lies of the enemy.

I pray that you will let these lies go and that you will ask God to replace each lie with His truth.

I pray that your life would be marked by belonging to Jesus and that you will walk humbly as your value comes from no source out side of him.

I pray others would be struck by truth in which your life rests and that they too would be drawn into the loving presence of Jesus.

Live

Write a letter to your pastor reminding him or her of their value source. Speak words of life outside of performance. Speak words of hope based on the character of Jesus. Speak words of love based on the life of Savior Jesus. Speak words of truth based on the very truth of Jesus. Pray that God will give you exact words to encourage him or her today.

Generosity and the feet of Jesus

Listen

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” John 12:4-8

Oh dear one my heart aches for the world. Do you not see the need? Do you not realize that the world needs me more than any other thing.

I will always remember the story of this woman who poured out expensive perfume on my son. Her gift was not wasted. The gift was a sacrifice of worship. She lavished me with this valuable gift and it was good. Her offering she declared that I worthy of the most precious of gifts and the most valuable of treasures.

Like Judas, there will be those who watch as you give to me and complain. Many may point fingers as though you’ve been selfish or foolish with your generosity. Still others may say that you have sinned against me, for your gift didn’t come in the way they saw fit.

When you give to me, listen to me first. Know what I ask of you and give it generously.

Do not weigh the opinions of men, simply give. The world will be filled with your generosity and many will praise me as a result.

Trust in me. The needs of this world are met as people lavish me with their generosity.

 

Pray

I pray that you will be lavish in your generosity towards Jesus.

I pray that you will seek Him and that He will guide you in your gift offerings.

I pray that Holy Spirit will convict you of what is good and right and perfect as you give and that you will be bold and obedient.

I pray that the opinions of others, selfish motives and fear would not keep you from giving.

I pray that the world would know the lavish generosity of Jesus as you give selflessly to Jesus.

 

Live

Ask Jesus where he would like you to invest for His Kingdom with you belongings. Make a commitment to Jesus, to faithfully give all that He commands and bless others by loving Jesus with your generosity.