For some strange reason, the phrase “loving well” keeps popping up for me lately. Just in the last few days, a writer I deeply respect used it in a blog post, my pastor prayed for it in a prayer service, and a friend wished for it in a conversation.
So I find myself wondering: what distinguishes loving well from – well, “just” loving?
As I try to nail down the distinction, I think of the people in my life who I would say love well and I ask myself, “What makes him/her come to mind?”
Yes, they put others’ needs above their own, certainly they allow themselves to be vulnerable in relationships, and no doubt they consistently strive to communicate clearly.
Do you remember junior high? Sorry, I know that was a painful question. We all remember those days (and not necessarily in a good way).
Here’s the thing: Where my house is located, I have a front row seat to the on-going pre-teen drama at the junior high bus stop . . . and frequent flashbacks of my own to that dreadful era:
How could I forget the kid with the unfortunate first name of Orville? No doubt his parents intended to honor some beloved relative by giving him that name. But Orville? He paid dearly for his parents’ choice to hang that one on him.
There was the overly tall, awkward guy everyone in the seventh grade called “Slow Monroe” and then snickered as though he couldn’t hear them. I hope he ended up a CEO somewhere.
I still remember Ellen in Mr. Hunter’s math class. She used too much Coppertone QT over the weekend and came to school with her face orange. Even the teacher had a field day at her expense. I’m not sure she ever lived it down.
Early on in my single parenting years, I bought a fixer-upper house in a charming neighborhood full of young families with kids. A few short months after moving in, I joined a singles group at my new church.
I don’t know what made me do such a thing. I mean, the house was an investment and a way of bringing stability to a wobbly life. That part made sense.
But the singles group?
It sure wasn’t because I needed more to do. I was working an all-consuming, often dangerous job that required me to be on call 24/7. And now I had a house in dire need of TLC, a lawn to mow, a temperamental car to nudge along, and a not quite 3-year old to raise on my own.
But for whatever reason, I decided to give the “kickoff” singles event a whirl. I hired a babysitter and then went into image-management mode. I wanted to project the together, professional vibe; to give off a self-sufficient, polished air. I couldn’t have people knowing how hectic and chaotic my life really was. Continue reading →
Some days are just hard. Then another one comes along just like it. Then another. And before you know it, they’re stringing together like the links of a heavy chain and you’re dragging the weight around, exhausted and discouraged and maybe a little (or a lot) angry at the unfairness of it all.
When I start to feel that heaviness, I find myself waking up well before daybreak and whispering, “God, please let today be better”. It isn’t a plea grounded in hope, as in I know God is with me and will make all things work together for good if only I will believe. No, usually it’s more of a desperate, I give up, I’m drowning here. I’m at Your mercy.
It’s not a time I need a sermon or a theological explanation about God’s grand designs for humanity and what a small part of it all my tiny life is. It’s true the big picture of human history is infinitely vast and knowable only to an all-powerful God. And it’s true I can trust Him to take care of me in the larger context of eternity.
But when I’m in pain or exhausted from too much drama and the frustrations of life, you know what I need? Continue reading →
People are complicated. I’m sure that’s not news to you.
I think about my own life and the image I always try to project: polished, confident, intelligent. You know the drill.
But I’m an iceberg and so are you.
There’s what we let other people see, and then there are all those other layers and dimensions we keep below the surface: our past, our weaknesses, our fears. To be seen as who we aspire to be requires that those aspects of who we are remain hidden. But all that other “stuff” is still there below the surface.
Being in relationship with each other – unless we keep it strictly superficial – is going to be tricky, maybe even dangerous. We’re sure to bump up against each other and those layers we didn’t know were there for others will bruise us, while ours will bloody them.
The loss of comedic great Robin Williams this week really drove this point home to me. Here was a guy who brought so much joy and laughter to his audiences and seemed to always have a funny retort and positive outlook.
I think I could have been friends with him if our worlds had intersected in some way. No doubt I am not alone in that. He was a rare presence.
Over coffee recently, a friend intrigued me with her description of a relative we’ll call Jackie. Jackie, it seems, embraces the odd. If you were to go shopping with her, you might be flummoxed to discover she prefers the items with tiny flaws: the one blue vase with a splotch of orange paint where it shouldn’t be, the picture frame with a nick on the corner, the sofa pillow with a pulled thread. Nothing that renders the piece unusable or unsafe, mind you, just something perfectly imperfect.
Me? I’d be rummaging through the box or bin for the one object in the whole selection that WASN’T slightly crooked or smeared or cracked, but apparently not Jackie.
I’m not kidding when I say there was a glow in the room. My neighbors had invited my daughter and me over to meet their new grandchild – their long awaited, breathlessly anticipated, deeply adored grandchild. They knew how much we had been looking forward to meeting this little one and it was going to work out perfectly. Their daughter and son-in-law would be there with the baby all afternoon. I could hardly contain my excitement.
She was everything we thought she would be and more. Beautiful, angelic, perfect. That is the absolute truth. But what impressed me even more than the preciousness of this child Continue reading →
Miss Ruby – as my grandmother was known to her friends- was a hardworking, dignified Southern lady. Her husband (my grandfather) died tragically when their children were very young. She raised my Dad and my aunt as a single parent, working two jobs, opening her home to boarders, and selling cakes and pies she baked from scratch.
She had a lot of wisdom and wow, was she resourceful! But I can’t imagine she had the luxury of choosing the ideal timetable for any of the major decisions she had to make. She couldn’t take extra days or weeks to consider her options; she had bills to pay, repairs to make, kids to clothe and feed. I expect she was in survival mode much of the time.Continue reading →
I came across a Gaelic prayer this week that began: “As the hand is made for holding and the eye for seeing, you have fashioned me for joy.” Have you ever considered that? That you are “fashioned for joy”? Is it really possible God intentionally designed and crafted us for joy?
Sometimes it sure doesn’t seem like it.
If the prayer were true, joy would be as foundational to our daily experience as our hand holding a morning cup of coffee or our eyes seeing the hour on the clock. Joy would be natural … and obvious … and so automatic as to barely require thought.
There are people in my life – not just acquaintances but friends – who are battling fear-inducing, seemingly insurmountable challenges: treatment for a life threatening disease, a child’s mental illness spiraling out of control, deep betrayal, job loss, marital breakdown, incarceration. These dear people are experiencing life’s lowest blows and I wonder, how are they to find or exude this joy for which they were created? Continue reading →