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. 

 

 

Life Over Rainbows

Rainbows-rainbows-16556428-500-375I look out my window. The earth resides under a blanket of gray. The color of the day seems to be muted with white and smokey tones. The evergreen trees are bleak as if they too have taken on the mood of the sky. It is quiet on the surface, but I can almost sense the battle between the dark and the light as the sun fights to shine through the clouds.

There is a war. It is a war for light. It is a war for color. It is a war that has been raging since the beginning of time. It is a war that is invisible to the human eye, but known by every human heart. It is a war that rages against us, every second of every day. It is a war between hate and love. A war between truth and fiction. A war between darkness and light. A war between good and evil. A war where the enemy is seeking to kill, steal and destroy and the hero fights for life, that is abundant and good.

The gray sky today echoes of a world asleep while the battle rages.

I look out my window at school buses driving by, neighboring homes sitting as both a refuge or a place to hide the mess that lies within. Cars drive by, I hear the sound of workmen and the occasional plane flying overhead and my mind if filled with images of people with hearts and minds being lulled by the gray and wonder if they taste life. Do they know that there is an assault on their heart and mind? Do people realize that there is more to the story?

As I reflect, I recall scenes from The Wizard of Oz. The artistic directors beautifully told the story of those who were asleep. The entire first segment of the film, shot in black and white, portrays a sleeping world.  It appears most have agreed that this reality is all there is and have forgotten how to dream of more. A young girl, full of life enters the scene. Her ache for more is felt as young Dorothy sings about life over rainbows. I’m curious, if she knew the battle that awaited her beyond the rainbow would  she have wanted to enter that story?

Can you feel the tension?

Gray. It is a place of tension. It is a place of ignorance. It is a place of longing, loneliness and complacency. It is a place where dreams are dismissed, miracles don’t happen and talk of such is discouraged.

Gray is the land on which most have made their home .

Gray feels safe and secure, its muted tones don’t seem to bother anyone and in fact, most have been deceived into thinking gray is all there will ever be.

For one living in gray the idea of more can almost feel too much.

I catch my breath as I type. More is too much. More is so much. More is what life looks like. More is not safe, nor is it comfortable. More involves dying to live. More involves fighting, rather than sitting. More involves deep belief and roots that are entrenched in the life giver’s soil. More involves choosing to admit that there is a battle and choosing to pick up a sword and fight for what is good. More involves eyes that are open, hearts that are vulnerable and a willingness to experience great pain to also experience great joy. More is the place where love lives. More is where heart ache is allowed. More is risk’s home and where impossible things are no longer seemed as foolish.  More is the place where light enters the darkness. Where being a victim isn’t an option, because the color has shown you your truest identity and you will fight to overcome. More is a place  of royalty. More is a place of tragedy, comedy and fairytale. More… well, it’s just that. It is more. It is what life looks like over rainbows.

Jesus declares that He is the author of more. He invites us to belief in Him and to live lives in response to this belief. He asks us to travel with Him over rainbows, into life that is abundant. Is his way safe? Oh no it is not safe. More is rarely safe. But His way, it is good.

I will choose to wear color today, to be light, to speak truth, to share of fair tales and to believe in the more Jesus has promised. What color blankets your life’s story? Do you hear an invitation into more?  Are you complacent, believing more can’t be for you and so you’ve resigned to gray? What holds you back from traveling over rainbows?

What truths do Jesus or his followers share about a life of more? Share some of those thoughts, verses or concepts and lets encourage one another all the more! as we see the day approaching.

Be blessed. Step into color and taste the more of Jesus.

 

 

Death and life

IMG_8073Fall, it is well upon us. Today I’m headed to the mountains to see what is left of the fall color. Such beauty, that is rich and good and also the first sign that something is dying. What a strange truth. The leaves bear vibrant color and life, just before they fall to the ground only to be swept away and discarded. Life and death. There is no worry for the tree in this cycle. It knows it’s role and it know that the dying is preparation for life. Death, rest, life; a cycle that is a part of the earth and also a part of my life.

This morning a friend and I were chatting about how life has been since I’ve been back from Spain and Europe.  We chatted about truth I lived into while there, the joy I knew, the stories of God’s miraculous intervention and guidance. We chatted about the promises I felt I was given as I returned to the States and then we chatted about how every one of those promises was met with huge challenge and attack since my return.

I knew coming back that the truth and the promises would be challenged. I think that is part of the journey when we live into life change outside of our normal context. But, I didn’t know how incredibly difficult it was going to be. I’ve been home just over one week and each truth and each promise has been met with a counter attack that has cut me off at the knees.

Each promise or idea of the result of the promise has been attacked and has in many ways died. Death.

It brings such anxiety to humans. We, unlike the trees, worry and fret over death. Will it come back to life? Did God abandon me? Was I lied to? What will happen next? This summer a friend wrote to me that he and another friend were discussing the idea of God and his perspective over our life situations. He said something to the effect of, “Do you think God worries about tomorrows? Do you think He is up there concerned how it all will play out? Can you picture God pacing back and forth, riddled with worry over our life circumstances?” The picture is almost comical. God, the creator and sustainer of all things, worried over my life situation. Of course God is not worried, in fact, God is faithful and steadfast and purposeful. He sees all things and He deeply cares about us, about me, in the process.

God has seen how each felt promise has been met with death. He is not worried by such things, for death to God is an invitation to life. The tree knows that death is what will bring life, but somehow, I, maybe you too, see death and immediately are tempted to think God has failed us or are met with the idea that God has somehow gone back on his promise. As I’ve had truth challenged and promise fulfillment seemingly die, I am greeted with a choice to once again believe. Do I believe that God is good? Do I believe that God is not holding out of me? Do I believe that the death is actually an invitation to life? New life! And perchance… death is the first sign of life?

God is good. He will always be, this will never change. My belief in this increases every day in some significant way. Yes, this belief is challenged as difficulty, lies and death collide with life, but each time I am tempted to see only the death, I am met by grace that turns my head to Jesus and I’m once again reminded that it is in dying that I truly live.

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.

The face of freedom

IMG_0766This morning I was doing my work out with the girls. Gracie, one of the college students has an incredible gift of leading workouts and motivating us beyond our norm. (We call her Denise when she leads us!) She is a ballerina and completely embodies her (given) name.

Today as we were doing a plie tears filled my eyes. Though no one noticed, I became very overwhelmed. I actually get teary now simply thinking about it. The overwhelmed feelings came on me, as I had no idea from where the tears came. I frantically searched through the rolodex of triggers and experiences in my mind to see if I could discover the source of the tears. Memories, words and pictures passed through my mind as if one were watching a reel to reel film of my life in fast motion. As each memory passed, they left no mark. Not one. I had no idea from where these tears originated.

Then I whispered to Jesus, “help me! why am I crying?” At that moment an emotion filled me. It was so profound that I had to breathe in deep so I could take it all in.

The tears were a result of grief.

As I worked out and witnessed this young woman so free and flexible and light, I knew a deep and profound grief. The grief was not brought on by Gracie, no, the grief was brought on by my own choice.

Years and years ago I made an agreement with a lie that formed me. I gave this lie a tremendous amount of power and the lie actually kept me from so much good. As a child I always wanted to be a dancer. But no, I wouldn’t allow myself to dance. I wanted to be an athlete. But no, I wouldn’t allow myself to compete, let alone try out. In high school I so badly wanted to be a cheerleader. But, I would not allow myself to audition.  There are countless other experiences I neglected to give myself, as I was held captive to a lie. A lie that truly formed me.

These lies tempted me as though they were true and just like Adam and Eve, I took the metaphorical apple and ate it. In doing so, I made an agreement with the lie that I was fat. I made an agreement that I was ugly. I made an agreement that I couldn’t do anything positive with my body. I made an agreement that my value came from those places and for years and years…… and years those lies were an over arching guiding force for me. And today, as I worked out, I felt the loss of good. I felt the loss of life. I felt the loss of skills I wish I’d had. I felt the loss of experience and freedom.  And that loss caused me, in a moment of experiencing the good I had missed out on for all those years, to cry.

The grief was different than shame. Shame overwhelms and keeps one hidden and stuck, but grief, grief acknowledges loss and actually is a feeling that indicates the end of something. So in the same breath, I grieved the loss of so much life and good, because of an agreement with a lie, AND I also rejoiced as I know that lie is now gone. It no longer has any hold over me. Freedom washed over me just as the sweat from my workout.

When I realized I was grieving, my tears turned from grief to joy in an instant. I shall weep no more! I shall grieve no more. For I am no longer managed by the power of this lie, no! I am new.  The old has truly gone! It’s gone!

When I decided to come to Spain to co-lead this program I felt deep within me that God was inviting me to come to Spain to experience and walk in freedom. I felt an invitation to live into the healing, restoration and truth that He has given me in the past few months. And today, at this very moment, I know that freedom. I know it deep within me and it causes tears to come even as I type.

Truth always sets us free.

Lies always bind us up.

For years and years I was owned. But I am owned no more. The reality of Christ and his good and his truth rests on my chest that was once so full of anxiety, shame and fear. I am free and my face and body show it! My face once heavy with shame, now shines with light and freedom and beauty.

Freedom is not an allusive idea or concept. It is real and it is for each of us.

Each of us, at one point or another, were given an invitation to believe a lie. Each of us were tempted to believe that this lie was truth for us. And many of us, stared the lie straight in the eye and shook hands with it. As our hands held the hands of deception, its lies filled our bones and  laid heavy upon us, sapping our life, as a leech in still water.

I don’t know what that lie is for you. For some it might be that they aren’t valued because they could never be enough. Others were abused and believe the only time they have value is when their bodies are being used. Others may not have measured up to their father’s standard of manhood or their mother’s concept of beauty. And still, others may feel their only source of value comes through external beauty. Maybe you were abandoned by a loved one. Maybe you were never chosen for a team. Maybe people mocked you in a certain area or constantly told you you would amount to no good.

Again, I don’t know what lie has formed you, but today, I ask that you take a moment and ask Jesus, the very author of truth, to reveal to you where you have made an agreement with a lie. As the lie surfaces, stare at the lie, look it up and down and remove your hand from the handshake of agreement, and turn your back it. Do not look back. Walk forward. Walk away from that which kills, steals and destroys and walk towards life. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” face him, listen to his words of invitation and run, don’t walk, don’t skip, don’t waste another moment of life!!! Run to Jesus and you will find life, life that is abundant and full.

I’d love to talk with or pray with any of you about this. Please feel free to email me or leave a comment and I will fight with you for truth.

Now take a moment and read words that are true. Allow them to wash over you like a hot shower on a cold day:

The Word Says in Jesus Christ…
I am faithful (Ephesians 1:1)
I am God’s child (John 1:12)
I have been justified (Romans 5:1)
I am Christ’s friend (John 15:15)
I belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:20)
I am a member of Christ’s Body (1 Corinthians 12:27)
I am assured all things work together for good (Romans 8:28)
I have been established, anointed and sealed by God (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)
I am confident that God will perfect the work He has begun in me (Philippians 1:6)
I am a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)
I am hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3)
I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7)
I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me (1 John 5:18)
I am blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3)
I am chosen before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4, 11)
I am holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4)
I am adopted as his child (Ephesians 1:5)
I am given God’s glorious grace lavishly and without restriction (Ephesians 1:5,8)
I am in Him (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:30)
I have redemption (Ephesians 1:8)
I am forgiven (Ephesians 1:8; Colossians 1:14)
I have purpose (Ephesians 1:9 & 3:11)
I have hope (Ephesians 1:12)
I am included (Ephesians 1:13)
I am sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)
I am a saint (Ephesians 1:18)
I am salt and light of the earth (Matfthew 5:13-14)
I have been chosen and God desires me to bear fruit (John 15:1,5)
I am a personal witness of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8)
I am God’s coworker (2 Corinthians 6:1)
I am a minister of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)
I am alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5)
I am raised up with Christ (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12)
I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6)
I have been shown the incomparable riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 2:7)
God has expressed His kindness to me (Ephesians 2:7)
I am God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
I have been brought near to God through Christ’s blood (Ephesians 2:13)
I have peace (Ephesians 2:14)
I have access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18)
I am a member of God’s household (Ephesians 2:19)
I am secure (Ephesians 2:20)
I am a holy temple (Ephesians 2:21; 1 Corinthians 6:19)
I am a dwelling for the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:22)
I share in the promise of Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:6)
God’s power works through me (Ephesians 3:7)
I can approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12)
I know there is a purpose for my sufferings (Ephesians 3:13)
I can grasp how wide, long, high and deep Christ’s love is (Ephesians 3:18)
I am completed by God (Ephesians 3:19)
I can bring glory to God (Ephesians 3:21)
I have been called (Ephesians 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:9)
I can be humble, gentle, patient and lovingly tolerant of others (Ephesians 4:2)
I can mature spiritually (Ephesians 4:15)
I can be certain of God’s truths and the lifestyle which He has called me to (Ephesians 4:17)
I can have a new attitude and a new lifestyle (Ephesians 4:21-32)
I can be kind and compassionate to others (Ephesians 4:32)
I can forgive others (Ephesians 4:32)
I am a light to others, and can exhibit goodness, righteousness and truth (Ephesians 5:8-9)
I can understand what God’s will is (Ephesians 5:17)
I can give thanks for everything (Ephesians 5:20)
I don’t have to always have my own agenda (Ephesians 5:21)
I can honor God through marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33)
I can parent my children with composure (Ephesians 6:4)
I can be strong (Ephesians 6:10)
I have God’s power (Ephesians 6:10)
I can stand firm in the day of evil (Ephesians 6:13)
I am dead to sin (Romans 1:12)
I am not alone (Hebrews 13:5)
I am growing (Colossians 2:7)
I am His disciple (John 13:15)
I am prayed for by Jesus Christ (John 17:20-23)
I am united with other believers (John 17:20-23)
I am not in want (Philippians 4:19)
I possess the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16)
I am promised eternal life (John 6:47)
I am promised a full life (John 10:10)
I am victorious (I John 5:4)
My heart and mind is protected with God’s peace (Philippians 4:7)
I am chosen and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12)
I am blameless (I Corinthians 1:8)
I am set free (Romans 8:2; John 8:32)
I am crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20)
I am a light in the world (Matthew 5:14)
I am more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37)
I am the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)
I am safe (I John 5:18)
I am part of God’s kingdom (Revelation 1:6)
I am healed from sin (I Peter 2:24)
I am no longer condemned (Romans 8:1, 2)
I am not helpless (Philippians 4:13)
I am overcoming (I John 4:4)
I am persevering (Philippians 3:14)
I am protected (John 10:28)
I am born again (I Peter 1:23)
I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I am delivered (Colossians 1:13)
I am redeemed from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13)
I am qualified to share in His inheritance (Colossians 1:12)
I am victorious (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Now that is what I call truth! May these truths dwell in your hearts, may their reality fill you up and may they be the words that define you.

Be blessed!

So I went dancing

profile-imageI stared at my closet, the choices were slim as one can only have so many clothes with them as they travel. The moment seemed rather important. I chose the bright yellow sundress as it was the best dress to twirl in and I was told that I should choose a dress I like to twirl in. The dress fell on me as if I were wearing someone else’s clothes who was much larger than me, but it’s what I had.

I walked into the bathroom, put up my hair, put on a little make-up and found the right jewelry to complete the outfit. I was ready!

There was knock on the door and I grabbed my last things and headed out the door. Tonight I was going to live into freedom, I thought to myself.

For on this night, I was going to dance.

For me, dancing has been something that I’ve kept myself from, because I’ve had so much brokenness around my body and dancing… well dancing is all about the body.

As I came to Spain I knew that I would dance. I knew that I would at some point put on the dress, wear the hair up and ready myself to go step into something new and this was the night.

I got in the car with my friend and three of her friends from Altea. The five of us headed off to Benidorm where I would dance salsa for the first time. I was ready, excited, nervous and momentarily tempted with thoughts of nervousness and timidity.

The club was not that full as the clubs here don’t really become active until well after 2 in the morning. The music played and I watched as women and men would take the floor and dance with such grace, confidence and sensuality it was as though they were all talking, but no words were spoken.

Salsa, itself is quite sensual. It is a dance that is felt deep within.

As I began dancing I was in my head too much. I wouldn’t feel the music, I’d try to think it. I would do my best to move to the rhythm, make the right steps, keep eye contact and try really hard not to bump into any of the people around me. I was all in my head and I had no heart at all. I couldn’t tell you what music was playing. It was all in my head.

I found that I would take on the qualities of the person with whom I was dancing. If the person led with confidence I too would be confident. If that person was clumsy I too was clumsy. I danced with a sense of anticipation for something good to happen. I danced as though I knew in just a few moments I would soon catch on. The catching on seemed slow and seemed to be more or less like my Spanish skills. I have a lot of desire but not a lot of skill.

I stood near our table watching the men and women fill the floor with movement and grace and story. They were beautiful. Then, it happened. A very handsome spaniard came over to me and asked if I’d dance with him. He was strong and had a smile that went on for miles. He led me to the floor and I straightened my posture and warned him that I was very new to salsa and that I was going to need a lot of help. He went on to say with a smile, “It’s okay I will be your teacher.”

He then led the dance. It was an amazing experience. It was as though I’d been dancing all of my life. With each movement he led me with strength and confidence. He led me as though I was a part of him. He led as though I was actually an extension of his body. It amazed me. With his every move I somehow, without words, knew where to go and how to respond. It amazed me. I actually wondered if I had danced before because it was seemingly so easy for me.

Let’s back up. For years and years I have wanted to dance and I’d only dance with other girls and I’d always lead. There was an apparent lack of men in my dancing life. And so I picked up the slack. So being led was a new and scary concept for me. He might make me look like a fool. If I lead I could be in control. With the man leading it was vulnerable. I was vulnerable.

But here I was, with a man who was strong enough to hurt me, and gentle enough to hold me and confident enough to lead me and I followed, becoming the prize that I’d seen other women live into all night. I was now that woman. I was the prize. And this man I’d never met was now going to show off his prize.

With each step he gave instruction, he spoke encouragement and he asked questions. At one point he spun me and I went the wrong direction, which for those of you who know me, you know that isn’t too much of a surprise. But his response was astounding. He apologized to me. I made a mistake and he apologized! What was this?! He then said, “If I was doing my job well, you would always know exactly what to do. So, it is my fault that you went the wrong direction.” I was floored.

Everything he did gave me confidence to be and dance with freedom, knowing he would take me where he wanted me to go. For the next few songs he and I danced together and with each dance I became more and more confident. His leadership brought out my confidence and I was so encouraged by it.

I didn’t really think about how powerful the experience was until I was later reflecting on it with one of the girls in the house. In my life I have been the leader more often than not. I have had to know how to do things and how to come up with solutions and I take the brunt of any wrong decision. And here I was, in one dance, being invited to follow. Not because I’m not capable, but because I was the prize.

There I was, in an uncomfortable situation, totally secure, because I was being led, truly being led. In one dance I felt peace. I felt cherished. I felt seen. I felt valued. I felt known. I felt feminine. I felt beautiful. I felt free. I was taught, held and led and I was free, in every way. The dance will not be forgotten. Nor will the metaphor it held. I will go again. I will dance again. I will become a better dancer and by becoming a better dancer I will actually become a better follower.

And being a follower it turns out, is pretty free.

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.