Relationships

When Nothing Changes and Nothing Stays the Same

There are some people in my family who have been wearing certain clothing items for a long, L-O-N-G, time.  These clothes are allegedly, ahem, “broken in” and so comfy that they just a can’t seem to get rid of them or not wear them.

Are you like this?

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I’m not.

I can’t fill the Goodwill bag fast enough.  My motto is if you haven’t worn it in a year, you’re not ever going to wear it again.  Get rid of it.  But that’s me. I like to make room for change.  I like to see what else I can find.  -Continue Reading

Diamonds and Other Precious Things

I’m just going to be real honest here.  I love treasure hunting. Not in the way you’re probably thinking.  I’m not talking about garage sale-ing or shopping for clearance.  I’m talking hard core treasure hunting; like searching for gold, buried treasure and stuff like that.

Now another confession moment, I’ve never actually been on a treasure hunt, unless you consider an afternoon on the beach with a less than cooperative metal detector, or riffling through old houses at an estate sale.  But I really want to go on one.  It’s a bucket list kind of a thing.

I recently discovered a state park in Arkansas where you can actually search for diamonds in the rubble of a diamond bearing volcanic crater.  If you find a diamond,  you can keep it.

Seriously.

You can find a diamond and take it home.

Who doesn’t want to do that?  Well, ok, so maybe that doesn’t send a shiver down your spine but it does mine.  I have something in me that wants to push through the dirt, rubble and obstacles to find something of great worth.

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When I looked at the pictures of the diamonds people were finding in the park I was surprised. They didn’t look like what I thought they would. I didn’t know they came in so many colors

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The diamonds I have mainly seen are white.  These seem to be the gem of choice for jewelry.  Diamonds typically have been a symbol of wealth and status, opulence and beauty.  Many women prefer a diamond for an engagement ring because it reflects that she has been valued beyond the worlds most desirable gemstone.

But looking at the diamonds from the Arkansas park opens up an entirely new conversation. Does a diamond in the rough have the same value as those that have been polished and cut? Are they not just as much of a diamond?  Is a rough diamond as worthy of a pursuit as a perfectly crafted one?

It seems the diamond of great popularity is the perfectly crafted stone displayed in all its’ glory.  The image of beauty and distinction. Anything less won’t do.

We are all diamonds.

Oh, I would like to reflect the most desirable diamond, however. The one that is cut at the right angle to complement my shape.  The one that fits perfectly into a setting that sparkles and catches everyones admiring eye.  I don’t want to be the diamond of many colors, sizes or shapes.  I don’t want to be clear on one side and cloudy on the other as many diamonds are.

Truth be told, I am that diamond. I have many facets to my personality, experiences, preferences and presence.  You do too.  But why is it that we only find a certain attribute, a perfectly cut diamond, to be the one we want to be esteemed above all else?  Why are we afraid? Why are we uncomfortable with ourselves?  Why is it that we feel an image is something we have to “keep up”?

We are so much more than an image.

Jesus met a woman once while traveling. (Check out John 4) This woman had an image.  It was the only image that fit her at the time and she wore it well. She was a woman who appeared to not be very well liked, to have made mistakes and perhaps gotten herself into situations that she was being judged for.  She couldn’t keep up with images of the honorable women of her day so she succumbed to pressure by staying away from her community. She had no choice but to embrace being a woman with the image of dishonor. An image that wasn’t truly who she was. In feeling unworthy, I wonder if the colors, shapes and cloudiness of her life seemed to disqualify her from being loved and accepted?

We are afraid of being disqualified.

Holding up an image always put us on the defensive, never knowing if someone will pull back the curtain and see the real us is something we protect ourselves against.

Let’s be honest. Sometimes the real us isn’t what the world wants to see anyway.  At times, it’s not what our closest loved one wants to see. They want the perfectly shaped and cut diamond. They don’t want the one that takes the work.  Ouch, but true.

I wonder how often I disqualify the ones that I love because they aren’t as I want them to be or even as I need them to be?

Am I willing to accept the uncut diamonds for their implicit value not for the value of what they bring once they are all fixed up?

Jesus didn’t buy into what the woman was selling. He begins to talk to her not as the devalued, disavowed woman that she believes herself to be, but as a person of worth.  He starts out simple.  He asks her for a drink of water.

Jesus always starts out simple.

He pursues conversation. One of the purest ways to value another human being is to simple engage.  Jesus gives her His time. She is caught off guard by this. No one wants to talk to her but Jesus does. Oh He sees that she isn’t like the other women.  She has taken an alternative path in life, one that has probably come with heartache, disdain and conflict but this doesn’t disqualify her. There are not limits to unconditional love. There are no social, political or religious positions to defend with Jesus. He’s not trying to convince her of anything.  He’s just being Jesus, loving Lord.

Jesus shows there is more than meets the eye.

As their conversation unfolds it’s obvious that this woman is informed and smart.  Jesus has a way of revealing our intelligence to us when we didn’t think we had any. They discuss spiritual matters. Then they discuss real world matters.  It’s obvious that this woman is raw but brave.  Jesus has a way of revealing our bravery to us when we didn’t think have courage. He shows her who she is, not who she has believed herself to be, not as who she wanted the world to see her as, albeit a controversial or cast off.

She is a diamond in the rough and Jesus loves her for it.

There is so much more to people than meet the eye.  Too often I allow boundary lines, color lines, preference lines and battle lines keep me from seeing the diamonds in my midst.

I am guilty. I often only see what people aren’t not what they are.

So I want to go to Arkansas.  I want to go on my treasure hunt.  I want to find diamonds, all kinds of them.  I need to go.  I need to see diamonds as they really are, not as I want them to be.

I want to be a treasure hunter, like Jesus. He helps me know that a diamond in the rough is worth digging for. He would  know.

When someone you love hurts…

What do you do when someone you love is hurting?

What do you say?

When a loved one is hurting emotionally, physically, financially, professionally or relationally how do you respond?

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At first I imagine most of us react the same way.  We are quick to call, text or email.  We show up with visits to the hospital and bring meals to the home.  We listen, empathize and pray.  We offer to babysit, make a phone call, do some networking or meet for lunch. We send encouraging notes that are tucked with verses of victory and strength.  We cheerlead, motivate and preach.  We repair stuff, help interpret diagnosis’s and research helpful articles. We do anything to help take away the pain so hope can thrive.

But what about when things don’t get better after a week, or two or seven? When weeks turn into months and months into years? How do you handle it then?

People I love have experienced significant hurt, long term hurt, no easy answers kind of hurt. Dear souls tangled in painful scenarios that just won’t go away.  It’s impossible to not be affected.  It hurts to journey with someone whose hurt goes on. Once you’ve emptied yourself of every encouraging deed and word you can think of you eventually collide with their pain. Now you both hurt.

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So what do you do when you begin to feel their pain because things just aren’t getting better?

Do you run out of things to say?  Do you stop asking because you don’t want to make it harder?  Do your emails and calls slow or stop all together?  Do you still come over for visits like in the beginning?  Do you avoid them because it’s too hard? Do you think about them?

We had a long season of hurt in our home. For the first time ever we experienced long term unemployment during the recession.  For a while it seemed as if the entire state was unemployed.  People were wonderful to us.  So much care, encouragement and support. But as weeks turned into months, which turned into years, things got quiet. Really quiet. I don’t think for minute that people didn’t care.  I think people just didn’t know how to care anymore.

When relief and answers don’t come for our loved ones what exactly are we supposed to do?

There were a few people who were constant. We treasured their presence. One friend called weekly, without fail. She listened for countless hours to my dialog that never seemed to change. Her prayers, unwavering and undying. Another friend invited my husband to lunch.  Every week.  Without fail. There they talked about everything or nothing. He simply showed up. A beautiful couple never gave up hope that God would help us. At the most unexpected and poignant times they were His messengers of aid to us. It was uncanny.  All of their gentle kindnesses pierced our darkness.  None of them had answers or remedies, only their presence.

They hurt with us. They felt the pain of silence and loss along side us.  They wrestled with their own expectations for God and people as they watched us slide deeper into hurt. They let themselves be hurt by our pain.

Sometimes you cannot do anything for others.

Sometimes you can only be with others.

A friend who enters the hurt of another.

Friends who risk being clumsy.

When we are willing to hurt with those who hurt we offer friendship in the lowest of places.  The place where hurt persists and relief is out of sight.

These low places are the most desperate places of our soul, the place where fear rumbles and frightens. No one can ignore vulnerability here.  Going into these low places, even for the sake of a loved one, means dealing with our own frailties, uncertainties, doubts and vulnerabilities. Everything that doesn’t get answered the way we want becomes front and center. I think this is why people don’t know what to do when the hurting goes on and on. They aren’t prepared to go that low. But love reaches deep.  It gets muddy. It enters doubt.

Something unusual also happens when you go to the low places with a hurting loved one. Light begins to shine. It’s not like a brilliant full moon that illuminates the darkness.  It’s more like a sky full of stars. Tiny dots of lights. Every hurting moment shared a new light pokes through the darkness. The starry night, a thing of beauty. The weathered soul in a weary place accompanied by the presence of loving friendship, a thing of beauty. I wonder if this is one of the greatest gifts we can give the world? To go into the lowest places with our loved ones, acknowledge their pain, let it rub against us? What if we don’t leave them alone? I wonder what good would come if we learned how to care for others when our encouraging ideas end and the hurt goes on? I wonder what would change if we learned how to get better at being “with” others?   What if we were more like stars than the moon?

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The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvelous display of his craftsmanship.  Day and night they keep on telling about God. Without a sound or word, silent in the skies, their message reaches out to all the world. ~Psalm 19:1-4

Love People Friday

Love People Clothing

Love People Clothing

I decided that today is Love People Friday.

Every day is a good day for working on love but Friday is even more important than most.  It’s the official start to the weekend. The weekend goes better when Friday is good!

My sister, Jodi, has a small business where she crafts unique pieces of clothing and sells them in local boutiques. It’s been a nice little business for some time but recently she has been inspired to move beyond creating something women like to own into creating something women will want to wear.  Her business, Love People Clothing has always promoted an inspired look but now she wants to promote an inspired life.  So she created a t-shirt line that goes by the name Love People.

Her goal is to inspire others to really examine the heart of what loving others is about and living that out in day to day life. The t-shirts are just a small reminder to wear love like you would wear a piece of clothing. To her love is not about the grand gestures but the small, loving words or actions that impact one.  Impressing thousands is easy and temporary, loving just one isn’t necessarily easy but it creates the most lasting effect.

So back to Love People Friday.

Friday is the day when most of us experience a shift in the work/school week.  Schedules are not as structured and we spend more time with our family and friends.  All the more reason why Friday matters the most when it comes to all things LOVE.

If I’m being honest, weekends around my house haven’t always been full of love.  Where I can coast most of the week on my own terms, I now have to collaborate with others on activities, needs or meals.  And then there is the issue of who gets in the shower first or who has the remote control?  I’ve been known to loose all good graces before on a Sunday afternoon. I need to be reminded to wear love.

That’s why I’ve dubbed Friday, Love People Friday.  It’s a reminder that I have to put on love before we all get together.  I have to decide ahead of time that I’m choosing love instead self-centeredness.  I choose to see my husband as he is and not as I expect him to be. I choose to flesh out patience, in whatever means necessary, when tempers rise and energy is low.  Letting naps happen. I choose to wait my turn and give grace when we are struggling; to speak truth or stop unhealthy habits as best I can for the sake of love. Eating a meal together instead of all at different times. Giving extra hugs and kisses and whisper soft words of love. Saying “thank you” and “please”. Playing a game. Reminding one another why you love “us”. Choosing to walk around the mall with your child, just because they need some time.

I know I won’t always do it well but I commit to giving it a try.

So here’s to Love People Friday.  Decide now to love those in your life this weekend.  You’ll be spending a little more time with them after all.  Wearing love on Friday could determine how well the rest of the weekend goes.

Regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic all-purpose garment. Never be without it.  ~Colossians 3:14

#wearlove

How To Break A Crockpot

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So I broke my crockpot last night.

You heard right.

I broke my crockpot.  You know the cooking appliance that you throw ingredients in and leave it to cook all day.  You pretty much can’t mess it up….yea.  Somehow I found a way to ruin mine.

I wanted to try something new.  I tried a recipe for home made bread in the crockpot.  It sounded easy so I gave it a go.

Now I probably should have realized it was a bad idea when the instructions stated to place the inner liner of the crockpot in the oven at a high temperature for over an hour.  The actual heating element of the crockpot….the part that makes it a crockpot...wasn’t actually going to be used.

Hmmmm.

So I followed the instructions as written (something that I don’t normally do but I was hoping to prove to my family that I could follow a recipe).  I heated up the oven.  Put the crock pot with all the ingredients in and…poof….after some time out came my experiment.

It didn’t work.

This is nothing new for me, or my family.  I’m used to things not working in the kitchen.  I began cleaning my mess.  I noticed something wrong with my crockpot, there was a sticky cloudy coating on the inside.  I scrubbed and scrubbed.  It wouldn’t come clean.  Then I realized…it wasn’t a stuck on mess…the glaze had come off… grrrrrrr.

Now I’m not sure but I don’t think I can use a crockpot in this condition.  The glaze seals the pot so it’s safe to use…but it has to be used properly. (I think they remind people to use appliances properly for a reason.  Lesson learned.)  Apparently putting the crockpot in the oven at a high temperature falls outside meaning of “used properly”.

Sharing my failed bread making attempt with my husband, he blurted out, “If you wanted a loaf of bread why didn’t you just get in the car and go get one instead of trying a new recipe and ruining the crockpot?”

“It wasn’t the bread I wanted. I wanted to try something new.”  I responded.

We both found each other to be funny.  He looked at the entire endeavor one way and I the other. The bread was the desired result but we assumed two different goals.  Mr. Practical was about securing a loaf of bread. Miss Inginuity was about experimenting with creativity and innovation.

Isn’t that like relationships? They are formed by two people with different mental, emotional and relational DNA. When two people assume the wrong things about one another, crockpots get ruined. Many disagreeable moments happen because we fight over how to fight.  We misunderstand one another.  We are familiar with one another but we don’t know one another.

One loaf of bread.  Two ways to get it.

How many arguments happen because we only relate one way – our way.  How many fights ignite because we react instead of respond, or we posture ourselves to be the right one instead of listening or asking questions to better understand?   Just because we are in a relationship doesn’t mean we know how to relate.  Just because we are in a marriage doesn’t mean we know how to be married. We are siblings but struggle to feel like family.  We c0-exist with other workers and fail to collaborate. Friends wonder how to be good at friendship.

The point is, relationships don’t always get used properly.

I didn’t realize that crockpots in a high temperature oven for a long time is a bad idea. I was unaware of how to properly use it.  I didn’t think I needed to read the owners manual.  In the same way we don’t realize we need to go to school on relationships. Having a relationship isn’t the same as being in a relationship.  Friendship isn’t automatic when you are friends.

Who knew we need to learn to be a learner of those we live with and love?

Who knew crockpots could be ruined?

Who knew relating to others requires learning how?

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.  ~ I John 3:18