loving the unlovable

Loving the unlovable sounds impossible. Just writing that sentence reminds me of one of Thomas Merton’s famous quotes, “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.” And this holds so much truth, doesn’t it? I am not to ask, “Is this soul worth loving?”, I am simply called to love.

But I don’t. There is one person in my life that I often find to be unlovable and unworthy of love. She complains about my small mistakes. She misses the goodness of her life and puts the little hiccups of life under a microscope. She is cruel to me. She calls me horrid names: stupid, ugly, untalented, fat, lazy. She judges me and expects perfection from me without the grace and honor I deserve. Yet, I crave her love so much. When I get glimpses of her love for me, I soar. I feel like I can do anything. I begin to forget her lies and begin to see me in a new light.

Why don’t I get rid of the bitch? I mean, even small doses of love isn’t worth the pain she causes. Well, you see, the bitch is me. For me, I can be one of the most unlovable people in the room. It not only makes it impossible to find freedom and love in my own soul, but it also makes it impossible to love others well. When I go out in the world with an internal dialog of hate, perfectionism, and bitterness what spills out is hate, perfectionism, and bitterness.

When it comes to love and compassion, I must start with myself. I can not hate my own soul and claim to love others. It is an impossible goal that many seem to have. In order to love others well, I must start with the most difficult for me to love, myself.

So, I slowly move towards an honest, grace-filled life. I forgive my imperfections one day, and the next remember that I will never be perfect. Perfection can’t be my goal. Completely and honestly myself must be my goal. I need to take the microscope off all the small hiccups of life and put it on the beautiful and brilliant parts of life: my marriage, my children, my friendships, my faith. I must offer the sweet balm of grace to all my mistakes and trespasses. And as I slowly move towards a true and honest self-compassion, I can move into being my own cheerleader. I can see the beautiful in my own soul. I can see what is good and needed for my life and the lives of the people that I do life with. And as I fall head over heels in love with myself, I can begin to love others with a deep and real love.

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Does this mean ignoring the pain of life? No, of course not. But in order to walk through the dark parts of life, I must be sure of my companion. And while I have a compassionate and courageous companion in my God, I must also find that compassion and courage in myself. I am, after all,  made of the same magic and light as He is.

 

For more thoughts on loving the unlovable, journey to Lindsey’s blog  and then continue through the posts.

the ugly side of grace

Grace is a miracle.  Poems have been written about its beauty.  Songs have been sung declaring its praise. Stories have been told explaining its power.  And in each of these, there is first something horribly wrong and ugly that is in need of grace’s gentle touch.

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Just over eight years ago, I had the worst day of my life.  My husband told me that he no longer loved me, that he was in love with someone else, and that our marriage was over.  Just typing that sentence still breaks my heart.

We sold our big, beautiful home.  We both hired lawyers and started the divorce proceedings.   I started therapy. Our children started therapy. He started therapy. And I tried to start over.  I rented a small home in the neighboring city.  I tried my best to take care of the kids and create a new normal.   And I cried. I cried about the lies. I cried for my children. I cried at the thought of being alone.  I also prayed.  I prayed for hope. I prayed for joy.  I prayed that my soon to be ex-husband would be hit by a bus.  And secretly, in the depth of my soul, I prayed that by some miracle, we could be together again.

As the months went on, my lying, cheating husband began having a change of heart. Friends and family would come and tell me how he had changed.  How he was gentler… how he had been humbled.  I, understandably, wanted nothing to do with him.  I was not going to be a “weak” woman and take him back.  I remember sitting across from my dear friend, Susan.  She was telling me how much he had changed and how much he wanted his wife back.  I looked her straight in the eyes and said, “I will never, never take that bastard back.”  Without flinching, she replied with perfect love, “I don’t think never means what you think it means.”

The word never did not mean what I thought it meant.  This broken and afraid man had changed and he did want our marriage restored.  He started to pursue me.  He started asking for grace.

I had a huge decision to make.  Do I risk everything and take back a man who had stomped and crushed my heart?  Or, do I risk everything and start my life all over without the only man I had ever loved?  I was afraid, but I knew how I wanted my story to read.  I knew I wanted the miracle.  So, I sided with grace.  It was the most courageous thing I have ever done.  I learned that weak women don’t take their cheating husbands back.  Kick ass women do.

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One of my favorite songs is Grace by U2.  Here is the last verse:

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

And that is the main problem with grace… it only comes after pain.  Grace can only intervene when there has been heartbreak and hurt.  It was made for the ugly things.

I am not going to lie, it wasn’t easy.  The divorce was so far along, that we had to pay our lawyers to stop it.   For the first few years, many of our days were painful and rough.  However, now that I am this far from the climb out of the ugliest place of my life, I can see the fruit of grace.  My marriage is a place of utter safety and freedom.  My husband and I feel more loved and known than we ever have before, and in a deep and honest way.   We are naturally hopeful in seemingly hopeless situations.  When life throws us or our friends a curve ball, we have hope that love will win and time will heal.  Mostly, we are extremely graceful.  Not only with each other, but with ourselves.

Now, when I hear poems, songs, or stories of grace, I hear my story.  I feel the pain and ugliness that must come.  I cry for the hopelessness that must proceed it.  I morn the dreams that must die.  All the ugly is worth knowing and feeling the fullness of grace… to completely feel hope… to completely feel the rebirth.  I know that choosing grace was not only the craziest thing I have ever done, but also the bravest.  It gave me one of the most beautiful miracles I have ever witnessed… my marriage.
I am doing this blog prompt with some amazing women.  Start with Susan’s blog, then click on through to read more about grace.

 

Grace is free sovereign favor to the ill-deserving. ~Benjamin B. Warfield

While on my run this morning, my phone fell out of my pocket.  I didn’t notice that it was gone until we got home.  We retraced our steps… twice.  We tried calling the phone and texting the phone… but someone had found it and turned it off.  They also turned off the location services, so my handy Find My Phone app was useless.  I spent my morning turning off my services and swiping my phone clean.
Andy’s camera stopped working yesterday.  When he took it into Canon we got the estimate of a cool $500 to fix it.  Oh, joy.
I would love to tell you that I have handled this whole thing with grace and perspective.  Not only would that be a lie, but it would be one of the biggest lies I have ever told.  I have yelled, cried, and cussed.  I have lost my temper at everyone living in my house for horrible reasons.  I yelled at my very sweet and kind 19 year old for leaving a butter knife in the sink.  Yes, you just read that right.  A butter knife.
After some time acting like a spoiled child, I decided I should practice some self talk.  Really, it is just a lost phone.  It sucks, but it isn’t life altering.  And the camera?  Well, that sucks too.  But, it is something he needs to get fixed.  We have some money in the business account, we can use that.
These are just things.  Everything that is important to me is OK and everything will be OK.
Did self talk help? No.  I continued to act like a spoiled child.
I got into the car and heard a heartbreaking story on NPR.  There are woman in the Philippians giving birth to babies in the aftermath of the hurricane.  They have lost everything… their homes, their families, their friends… and now, alone, they are having to face the fear of raising a child alone.  I cried. I prayed for these women.  I prayed for the Philippians.
This is when you would think my horrible attitude changed. Nope. I continued to act like a spoiled child.  I know, it is embarrassing, but it is the truth.
It wasn’t until I got a message from a friend.  She said she and her husband were coming over.  She was bringing beer and dinner.  She wanted to just sit with me.  At first, I said no.  I warned her of my anger and prickly attitude that my family had to endure.   She said she didn’t care about those things.  In fact, she wasn’t coming to fix me. She is coming to just sit with me.  As is, prickly and all.
This is when my heart finally started to soften.  I was offered grace right where I was.  I slowly went around the house apologizing to my family for my attitude.  I again received grace.
Today I am thankful for love that comes when I deserve it the least.

letting it all go

Sammy coughed all night long.  I don’t care how old my kids are, I can’t sleep when they aren’t feeling well.
When morning came, I knew I had to cancel two meetings I had today. There was no way I could have left her to herself.
As our slow and quiet morning went on, this little guy’s dad called asking if I could take him last minute.  I told him Sam was sick, but it would be alright with me.
After lunch, I took the little guy into the kitchen for a bath. He loves to splash in the sink.  As I sat there and watched him play, I remembered how my day was supposed to look.
Sometimes I need to let it all go… and let the day run itself.  Today I am thankful for this joyful lesson.
Back to my sickie and toddler.  They are keeping me on my toes!

eyes wide open

I have had a full day. 
It started with making pancakes, berry syrup, and bacon for my family. At breakfast,  I talked my husband into staying home for the holiday.  After breakfast, I got talked into a hike by my sweet and convincing husband. We came home and edited more of a wedding we shot last weekend. I took care of my poor, sick teenager.  I folded and put away two loads of laundry that had been sitting at the end of my bed for days.   I fed my sick daughter’s gecko.  I finished the day by tackling the sink full of dishes.
And throughout the day, I was searching for what I was thankful for.  I kept waiting for a big moment that would stand out.  I was waiting for the extraordinary, but the extraordinary never came.  Just the ordinary, everyday things.  While at the sink with far too many dishes, my eyes were opened.   Asking what I am thankful for throughout the day made my day full of thanksgiving.  The act of searching for the wonderful makes the ordinary things extraordinary. 
Today, I am thankful for eyes wide open and sinks full of dishes that allow you time to think.   

messes

There is nothing like homemade sauce and meatballs.  They take some work, and things can get messy… but in the end, they are worth it.  
Friendships are like that.  Parenting is like that.  Marriage is like that.  Life is like that. 
Today I am thankful for the messiness that is in my life… in my kitchen, in my relationships, and in my heart.  I am also thankful for the grace that comes with it.  

a father’s love

There are many well-known stories from the Bible.  There are stories of love and bravery.  There are stories of pain and regret.  There are stories of hope and redemption.   The prodigal son contains all of these.  I am going to give you my version of the story, just in case you haven’t heard it.
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Once there was a father and he had two sons.  He loved both children very much.  One son asked the father if he could have his inheritance before the father died.  He wanted all the father could give him (really he wanted more, but that is for another day) and he wanted it now.  The father, being full of love for his son, gave it to him.  The son packed up his things and headed off to spend his fortune and live the way he had always dreamed.
As time passed, his money slowly disappeared.  I imagine he spent it on good food and good whiskey. I see him buying rounds of drinks in hopes of friendship.  I see him gambling money to show how clever and smart he was, only to lose it all.
So here he is no money, no friends, and no hope. He knows he can’t go home.  He has made a fool of himself.  He had not only lost his pride and money, but he must have believed he had lost the love, respect, and care of his father.  He decided to get a job.  Unfortunately, the only job he can find is to clean and care for the dirtiest of animals.  One night, while feeding a pig, he has enough.  He remembers that his father treats his workers better than he is being treated.  He decides to go home and ask his father if he could be his worker.  He knows he has thrown away everything… he knows he doesn’t deserve to be his son… but if he could just be a worker on his father’s land, he will at least be fed.
I can imagine that walk home.  He must have been trembling with fear.  He must have rehearsed over and over again his speech. He would admit his wrong doing. He would admit his crimes. He would admit his selfish pride. He would ask to live not in the home, but out among the workers.
This is my favorite part of the story.  The father, seeing his son from far off, runs to him.  No big deal, right? Wrong.  During this time and in this country, men did not run.  In order to run, one had to lift his tunic.  Showing your legs would bring great shame to the man, but in order to run, one had to do it. Imagine running in a long evening gown. Not happening, right?  You must hike that baby up… and the higher you hike the dress, the faster you run.
Nothing mattered to the father… not the shame of him running, not the regret of giving his son so much of his fortune, not all the time that had past.  Nothing mattered, but the son coming home.
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So I bet this is when you think I am going to tell you some big sin of mine that my dad has forgiven?There are plenty of sins, but that is not why I love this story.
Or that my dad has always run after me with perfect love?
He loves me, but he is not perfect.
Or how I have never made my daddy proud, but he loves me anyway?
No, none of these.
I love this story because I don’t know a man who lives his life understanding this story better than my father.  My dad knows he is loved by a big God. My dad knows that he hasn’t lived a perfect life. He knows his mistakes. He has regrets.  That doesn’t change the unfaltering grace and love of his God. My father lives on the Father’s farm not as a son that deserves everything that is coming to him, but as a son that can’t believe the abundance.  My dad has accepted and received God’s unfailing love and grace. Because of that, my father gives great love and grace, and he gives it in abundance. I am not sure I know a more loving and forgiving man than my father. He gives to those that have nothing to give in return.  He sees the forgotten. He loves the unlovable.
Today is my daddy’s birthday.  All he wanted for his birthday is for me to tell him I love him.  So, dad, I love you. I love that you love my family. I love that your laugh can fill up a room. I love that you can make a story of a chicken crossing the road the best damn story I have ever heard.  I love that you tell me I am the apple of your eye every time I call you.  But more than all that, I love that you know the love of the Father.  I pray I can be as graceful and loving to the world as you have been.
Happy Birthday, dad.  I love you.   I am thankful for your love and the love of our big God.