Make No Mistake About It: You’re Loved!

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150

I laid on my bed and bawled. My pillowcase was damp on the edge, and I was desperately trying to muffle my sobs because I knew, I just knew, If I didn’t, that my mother would hear me, and then she would walk in and gently ask, “What’s the matter, honey?”

That always makes it so much worse.

And the pain. It would never end. Because… He… [choking]… He didn’t like me!

That, my friend, is junior high. I don’t even remember that guy’s name. His face, yes. His name, no.

*****

You’ve probably doubted it. At least once in a while. You might even doubt it right now.

Everyone has that feeling from time to time. “Nobody loves me.” Sometimes, we even question whether someone likes us.

I know exactly what you’re thinking. “Except for Abraham Lincoln. Man, everybody loved that guy, right?” Wrong.

“Well, except for Mother Teresa. She was certainly someone everyone loved.” Wrong.

“Okay. Fine. Jesus. Everyone loved Jesus.” Wrong.

I think you get my point. Everyone has feelings of being unloved. But most of the time, those feelings are based on things we do (/or don’t do).

People didn’t get angry at Lincoln because he was a big jerk, but because he did something jerky. Or, as this example illustrates, he said something jerky:

“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races,”1

People didn’t think Mother Teresa was a big jerk. Probably ever. But they did (and some still do) think she was misguided (or worse, which you can see here), and some even think she’s in hell (some balderdash to that account is here—I don’t want people to think I make up everything on this blog).

As for Jesus, I think the crucifixion is all the example I need. (You can Google that, if you need to, here.)

When someone doesn’t like people don’t like someone, it’s generally because of what they do. (Cheats at poker, for example.) Not because of who they are. (Left-handed brunette.) God’s not like that. God loves us in spite of who we are.

Let’s anthropomorphize a bit here. (It makes things easier.) God never has a moment when, looking down, God says, “That Cynthia, she thinks she’s doing okay, but I’ve got news for her. She’s really quite a loser. In fact, by My standards, she does some pretty nasty things. That’s just wrong. I don’t even like her.” Guess what? That never happens. Nope. (God didn’t even say that about Hitler. I know, I wasn’t going to bring up Hitler. I hate bringing up Hitler. But, you’ll have to admit, in this case, it’s pretty useful. Because… Hitler.)

I, as a Christian, can point to various Biblical passages when I talk about how God loves me (and you).

But other faith traditions also believe this. Rabbi Shohama Harris Wiener writes poignantly of this in his article, “Does God Love Me?” For a Muslim perspective, there is this lovely piece by Quthrun Nada Djamil,  “Allah loves His servant more than a mother who loved children.”

I can feel confident that God loves me. So can you. Rest assured, you are loved.

_____

1That nonsense was uttered on September 18, 1858, in Charleston, Illinois, at the fourth debate with Stephen Douglas, the transcript of which you can read here. Obviously, Lincoln’s position evolved over time.

*****

I’m joining up with the delightful Holley Gerth for her series, “Coffee for Your Heart.” You can read about it by clicking on the illustration at the top, and read more entries (or link up yourself) here.

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Have a cuppa: Encouragement

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150“What encouraging words do you want the people you care about to hear as they begin a new year?”

That was the prompt that Holley Gerth gave on January 1 to begin her new series: Coffee for Your Heart. (You can read about it by clicking on the illustration at left, and read more entries, or link up yourself here.)

If there’s one thing I learned in the past year (and something I should’ve learned a long time ago, that’s for sure), it’s that life is full of hard things. It’s not easy. But that doesn’t mean give up.

I know, it’s very tempting.

We see videos on YouTube, we watch movies, we see television shows, maybe even a person demonstrating something at our local library. They all have one thing in common: they make it look easy. Effortless. Piece of cake.

But we all know it’s not really like that. So why do we give up? Because it’s haaaaard…

Vintage PianoI know I got into this rut (and it was years in the making, believe you me) where I got to the point where if I couldn’t figure something out in about fifteen minutes of honest effort, I believed I wasn’t meant to do it. I mean, obviously, God didn’t give me a special talent for intuitively mastering Gimp, or learning HTML (let alone cascading style sheets), so, clearly, these things must not be something I need to master.

And it’s true, I don’t really need to master Gimp or cascading style sheets to make my life meaningful. But there were a lot of other things that this “it’s too hard” attitude trickled into. Learning how to budget my money. Returning to playing the piano. Understanding the design theory behind becoming a better photographer. Singing in a church choir. I was no longer learning almost anything, because…haaaaard. I wasn’t even participating in a great many things I already knew how to do (at least a little) because…hard.

My life got dull, tedious, and so very sad.

Don’t let that happen to you.

Allison Vesterfelt, in her book, Packing Light, says:

“I think sometimes when things get hard, too many of us assume we’re moving in the wrong direction. … Like if we’re doing life right, it’s supposed to be easy.”

When I read this book last summer, this hit me like a ton of bricks. I distinctly remember looking up from the page and staring for a long time out the window in stupefaction. When had I stopped understanding this? Me, a pianist? A person who had spent weeks learning a single piece of classical music. What was I thinking?

It might be hard. But it will be worth it.

Yes. Yes it will.

And, oh, let me tell you. You will feel the most sublime sense of satisfaction when you accomplish that hard thing.

Relish that. Dance around to that music. Roll around in that sensation. Feel that good feeling of accomplishment. Because that feeling of satisfaction will carry you through the next hard thing. And the next.

Oh, things will probably never get easy. Really worthwhile things are never easy.

But they are worth it.

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Bold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

Camel Caravan

“There!”
“Where?”
“Out there! See?”
“Oh, now I do. In the East.”
“Yes. That cloud of dust.”
“That’s a caravan, isn’t it, Aziz?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Tell Nathan to go into town, and tell them a caravan is coming. It looks large.”

*****

“There must be twenty camels.”
“And, look! They have horses!”
“Hmmm… that’s not something you see every day. Not around here.”

*****

Adoration of the Magi Gaspare Diziani 1718 Oil on Canvas Museum of Fine Arts Budapest

“We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” … and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:2b, 11 NABRE)

*****

That’s bold.

“Hi. You don’t know us. But…uh… we saw a star… Um… It’s been kind of a long trip…”
”Two years, really…”
”Yeah, two years.”
”Can we see him? Your son?”

That’s a vision, and a true belief, and a solid faith that what you’re doing is exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.

That’s the kind of bold I want. Magi bold. Keeping after the task at hand, not being dissuaded. Following the star. Even when it gets tiresome. And it does get tiresome.

Bold is what keeps you going.

*****

If there’s one thing I’m pretty dismal at, it’s being prepared for unexpected company. Oh, I’ll do the best I can, but it’s not like I’ve got an extra casserole in the freezer and can put fresh sheets on the bed in a twinkling. They’ll be lucky if I have a cold beverage.

But we never hear that Joseph was ill at ease around these pagan shamans. We don’t read that Mary was ambivalent about having foreign dignitaries dandle her boy on their knees.

And the gifts. Let’s not forget the gifts. Oh, they had probably seen the frankincense before, at the temple. We do know that Mary’s cousin Elizabeth was married to a priest, so it’s very likely that Mary and Joseph were frequent visitors to the temple (at least, as frequently as their schedule allowed). At that time, village women were accustomed to preparing the dead for burial, so maybe Mary had seen myrrh before. And yes, if they had been to the temple, they had obviously seen gold. But touched it? Even the little coffer of gold that we see in most paintings would’ve been enough gold to set them up for life. And then some.

But they remain unruffled. They don’t say, “Oh, you shouldn’t have.” Or, “Oh, this is too much.”

They are gracious, and welcoming, and take everything in stride.

That’s bold. Mary bold.

That’s the kind of “yes, life, I’m taking what you’re offering, even though it’s about the most outlandish thing possible” attitude that I want this year.

Ready to take on whatever wise men are coming.

Who knows? Maybe they’ll even have gifts!

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No words…

Because someone broke into my house and stole my laptop.

With all my writing. And pictures.

The DVD player is missing, too, but I don’t care about that.

Because it’s not about the object.

It’s about the contents.

Hitting the pawn shops tomorrow. Hoping for the best.

Hope wasn’t on the hard drive. It’s on the heart drive.

Five Minute Friday: Grace

Black Hand White Hand“Are you okay?”

I had fallen in the icy parking lot outside the bookstore. He came to help. Such is grace. The unmerited favor bestowed, and then accepted. Humbly.

“Oh, I’m fine. Thank you. Guess I didn’t realize how icy it was.”

“You went down fast. I’m sorry I wasn’t closer.” He looked over to his friend, who was still twenty feet away. “You’re not even wearing a coat!”

“Oh, I just came out to get something from the car. I left my coat inside. I’m fine. Thank you. Thank you very much.”

“Well, if you’re sure you’re okay. Have a great day!”

“Thanks. You, too.” I nodded at them both, and they were gone.

Such is grace. Unasked. Unmerited.

Receive it.

*****5-minute-friday-1

What’s Five Minute Friday?

A blog-prompt project dreamt up by LisaJo Baker, which you can read about here. The basic idea is that you spend five minutes of writing, generally unedited (I correct typos, WAY too OCD not to do that), on a prompt that she provides just after ten p.m. via a tweet, then spread the word, and link up. Interested? Join up. Enjoy a delightful assortment by clicking on the picture to the right, or here.

This is what happens

Depression Era FamilyThis is what happens when you throw your lot in with a madman. This is what happens when you give yourself away to an idea that is not ready to be born, barely formed enough to be recognizable as a coherent thought. This is what happens when you’re lying on the ground in a dirty dress, with your hair falling in your face and your breath knocked out of you so that you’re gasping.

Gasping. And grasping. Grasping at the straws of belief. The belief that you thought would give you a foundation and a shelter from the storm. This is what happens… This is what happens when you put all your eggs in one basket, when you decide on a truth. This is what happens when the truth turns into nothing more substantial that a burned out building.

Building. Building what you thought was a dream world, but it turns into a nightmare. A nightmare that you wake from, screaming and panting. This is what happens when the nightmare is real and you don’t know what to do or where to go anymore. This is what happens when truth turns into a lie and all you want to do is lie.

Lie. Everything was a lie. This is what happens when you’re afraid to admit to yourself that you were wrong again. This is what happens when you allow yourself to be duped. This is what happens when he leaves in the night with the car and the rent money and you’re stuck with unpaid utilities and five hungry kids and nothing to eat in the house but half a summer sausage and a bottle of Jack Daniels. This is what happened when you try.

Try. But fail.

*****

Amity and SorrowI wrote this after finishing another chapter in a fabulous book, Amity & Sorrow (by Peggy Riley, published by Little, Brown & Co., 2013). I was inspired by the book, and this is not a direct reflection of the plot, though it has similarities. It just up and flowed out, and I couldn’t stop writing. I wish all writing was this easy.

Shut up!

Shut Your Beak

I’m not her any more. I’m not.

I used to be her…

the one who blogged about being in a tar pit;
the one who wrote about how I was mad at God;
the one who got angry at my messy, sad excuse for a life;
the one who questioned if anyone was reading what I wrote,  let alone actually cared about it…or her;
the one who did a little of this and did a little of that and wrote when she felt like it;
the one who mostly ranted that she wasn’t getting her own way.

But I’m not her any more. I’m me. Oh, she is still in there somewhere, yammering from a mental trunk that  “This isn’t funny any more!” as she cries to be let back out.

But I’m driving the car now and I’m just going to keep her in there until she passes out from the lack of oxygen.

I’m not feeding her any more.
I’m not listening to her any more.
I’m not living with her any more.
I’m killing her off.

Why?

I’m not like that any more.

I’m no longer satisfied with the depressed life.
I’m no longer satisfied with the sad excuses, the lame, lackluster-ness.
I’m not letting her back out and she can’t make me. She can’t make me. She can’t make me.

I’m quitting that. All that.

That kind of melancholy.
That depression drama where a hangnail is enough to unhinge me.
That unrelenting gloom where even Wednesday Addams might be looking for the nearest exit.

I am unashamed of my past, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let her run my present or my future.

So, sad lady in the trunk, whining that you’re feeling a bit faint from dehydration and begging me to please not drive so fast because you’re hitting your head and it hurts so bad.

Shut the fuck up.

I’ve had enough of you.

I’m going to be happy now.