I've had complex feelings about Valentine's Day most of my adult life. I was married to a recovering addict for many years. Relapses were sure to occur Christmas, my birthday (12/24), and New Years Eve. There simply wasn't enough time to heal and forgive before Valentine's Day came about. And so I developed a habit of rolling my eyes when I saw heart-shaped balloons at the market.
Fast forward to my last Valentine's Day as a married woman. My brother was visiting from L.A.. My husband had just returned from camping (allegedly) when he took me aside to say, "I'll be moving out. Not to worry. God will send someone to take my place."
Um, Okay. I swallowed the pain and in typical doormat fashion, cooked a beautiful dinner for my family. I didn't have the heart to not give him a gift on this special holiday, so I purchased a box of Girl Scout Cookies. Thin mints. The cookie of champions. (I have a great deal of compassion for the woman I once was.)
I've only dated one man since my divorce. He was very charming. Too charming. It would be indiscreet of me to share the details of our relationship. But suffice to say, it ended abruptly after 4-ish months when he realized I was serious about saving myself for marriage. Who gets dumped five days before Valentine's Day? Yours, truly. Naturally, Valentine's Day threw up all over the city that year. It practically rained heart-shaped balloons.
If you follow me, you know I have consider stores of bohemian humor. Laughter is one of God's greatest gifts. And crying. The curse is to be numb. (I've been there, too.) So I drag my sad self to Sports Academy, where Voila!, I acquire a date for Valentine's Day! Because necessity is the mother of invention, I made myself a Wilson.
Me and Wilson. Going strong since 2015. Not to brag, but he's an actor. Perhaps you saw his work in Top Gun and Cast Away.
This year on Valentine's Day, my heart warms when I see Wilson. And nothing is more fun than sharing that story with other women. That silly volleyball is a gift that keeps on giving. What could have been lasting "bad" memory has morphed into something I sincerely find funny. Know what I did today? I bought myself a box of thin mints. Oh yes I did!
The past two years go unparalleled in what God's shown me about loving myself. It began with a prayer: Father in heaven, In the name of Christ, I ask for the greatest gift of all . . . A love that allows me to be at ease with myself when life isn't' easy.
God commands us to love others as we love ourselves. But do we really know what this means? The take away for me is that the will of God always begins within. The question isn't what shall I do next, but rather, will I yield to the Love who resides within me and allow Him to shape me in such a way that the desires of my heart are fulfilled naturally.
This Valentine's Day, cry if you must. But allow room for laughter. Ask God to give you something to laugh about if you're going solo.
Let God love you so you can get on with the business of loving others as you love yourself.
Next blog: We'll unpack Mark 12:30-31; The greatest commandment.
"Love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself."
Peace out Bohemians!
Published on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 @ 5:57 PM CDT
[From my archives]
With Thanksgiving just around the bend it would be remiss for this Native American not to share a little Indian humor before I attempt to convey how incredibly grateful I am that God is faithful to gather every fragment of a broken heart and make all things new.
[Enter] Wilson Elementary School cafeteria--circa Thanksgiving, 1991.
I've invited my mom (full blood Cherokee) to join my son's second-grade class as they "break bread" and offer sincere thanks for the role Native Americans played in creating a holiday destined to repeat on iPhone calendars across North America until Jesus returns.
Imagine long tables lined with make-shift table clothes. Remember these? All you need is a roll of white paper roughly the length of a football field and some crappy tape that doesn't hold.
The finishing touch is brought to fruition by dressing half the children as Pilgrims and the other half as Indians. Do you see it?
My mother--within ear-shot of my son's teacher: If they really want to be authentic they should segregate the Indians and the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims refused to sit next to us, ya know.
On a more serious and yet every-bit-as-priceless note, I meant what I said about being grateful my life fell spectacularly apart in 2012. At the time I wasn't grateful. At the time I felt confined to a tunnel of pain with despair at one end and rage at the other. I'd loved for so long; given so much. Betrayal is a vicious beast of a thing that can cause a person to feel as insignificant as humanly possible.
That was me the first year. A discarded speck caught in a vortex of disillusionment--about myself, my marriage, my life . . . even my prayers to God. Who was I?
I could no longer read my Bible. I'd always read my Bible. At night I'd place it over my heart before drifting off to sleep. In the mornings I'd read a sentence or two at my kitchen table before closing my eyes and resting my head upon open pages. Several months passed before it dawned on me that my prayer life had been founded on the fervent seeking of the strength needed to stay year after year with a man who did not have my best interest at heart.
No matter what he did to hurt me or my older sons, I prayed harder. Tried harder. Pushed (read: controlled) harder. I was exhausted from my attempts to manage the damage. For the first time in a long time, I had nothing to offer anyone. It was all I could do to get out of bed and breathe.
I fell apart. But then I made a commitment to face the pain, the confusion; the illusion I'd wrapped scripture around for multiple years--expecting God to bless the world of denial I'd built in the name of Jesus. Well, He did bless it. He brought it down Old Testament style. If life was a board game, I guess you could say the God of the Universe cleared the pieces of mine with one breath.
To be stripped of oneself is a great gift from God. I remember the first day I opened my Bible and could read again. Really soak it in. Not because I had something terrible to survive, but because I had a life to live. What would my relationship with Christ be like as a single mother? More importantly, as a woman no longer living in denial.
I'll tell you what I've learned so far . . . what I'm most grateful for this Thanksgiving: Today, when I open my Bible, chalked full of highlights from years of study, what means the most to me are the pages stained with tears. God used every one of them to water what I'd highlighted in yellow and bring me back to life.
I'm alive in Christ--not simply Christian. Which is to say, I'm not afraid to let myself feel or face anything. Anymore. Good or bad. I've learned that in all things He communes with me. What I find most touching is that just this morning as I thanked Him for a life replete with the manifest evidence of His goodness, in my heart I heard the gentle whisper, I'm grateful for you, too, Wendy.
I am not a speck.
I am somebody.
I am grateful to be God's child. And He is grateful to be my Father.
Wishing you the same peaceful resolve this Thanksgiving. You are not alone. You are not a speck!
P.S. Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him (Psalm 126:5--6).
Published on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 @ 10:26 AM CDT