Tuesday, January 12, 2010

honesty and my day...

I should be doing laundry. But I have to write.

This blog started out very differently, a collection of my thoughts from Greg's message on Sunday. I have been working on it for a few days now. I will finish it and post it. But not tonight.

Today has been a strange day. I can't quiet my thoughts...they are a jumbled, melancholy mess in my brain. Their feelings are in my heart. Joy and sadness, anger, fear, regret...all brought through my conversations with various people in my life today. Lots of conversations...lots of emotions.

I am so very thankful for the friends in my life. They live all over the place, and some are too far away. They pray for me, care about me, love me. I love them.

I want to talk about my conversations but they were private, things trusted friends share with each other. So I will talk about their effect instead.

There was joy in those conversations. When others know you well enough to "hear" what is unsaid. The dear ones catching that the "I'm okay" you say really means you are not okay at all.

But there was also sadness. The email from my mom wondering why I am not responding to her phone calls or emails..."I know something is wrong Valerie. Please let me know you are okay." She knows me so well. Knows that I avoid when life gets tough. Or I feel awkward about something. Or I have avoided for too long, so I continue to avoid because each day makes me feel worse and worse about my avoiding. I fail me and those around me and hate myself for it.

I struggle with feeling worthy of care and love so I avoid returning them when they are given to me. It genuinely surprises me when others see worth in me and compliment it. It makes me uncomfortable. I want to embrace it but it feels wrong. I cling too tightly or not at all. Or better stated...I cling too tightly and THEN not at all.

The bottom line is that it hurts others. And me, but it hurts those who care for me more. They are left confused, wondering how I can be so caring and involved and then pull away so suddenly. Then I am left apologizing and attempting to explain what can be explained, but brings no comfort when it is.

It is selfishness wrapped in fear and it must stop. The crazy, unreal part of this is I truly care for people. I love people and making new friends. I cherish the relationships in my life deeply in my heart. But I have not maintained them well in real life. I regret that so much.

So, if you are reading this and you are someone I have hurt with my selfish, fearful avoidance tactic, I ask your forgiveness. I am sorry and I ask for grace and a new beginning. I hope I can make an apology face to face...or computer screen to computer screen...in the near future. But this is a start.

Julie, you sat with your arm around me at group last night and for the first time in a very long time I did not feel uncomfortable or that I was unworthy of the time and attention you were showing me. I just felt loved. Thank you.

Okay, this was a very honest writing. I feel a little strange and vulnerable already. But I am going to post it anyway. Honesty is a good thing. :)

Good night dear friends. You are in my heart.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Family Days!!

The world is full of possibility this morning.

Today is family day. I loooove family days. When we lived in Minnesota, when Onnie and Maise were little, we would spend every Saturday together, out and about, all day long. Sometimes we spent the day at Mall of America, taking the girls on rides in Camp Snoopy and eating funnel cakes under the evergreens. Other days we would head to Stillwater and walk the streets, getting ice cream at that amazing parlor on Main Street, and staring at the Victorian Bed & Breakfasts and the river. Sometimes it was just simple...browsing Marshalls down the street from our apartment and lunch at Chammps, where they never failed to ask us if "party of four" was four people, or four kids. They always asked, "Four kids?" first. Yep, people in Minnesota have big families.

Then we went through the "lean years" and family days mostly stopped. We could have found cheap activities to do as a family, usually the most expensive part of family days was the food anyway. But family days mainly stopped because our schedules changed. Either Ron or I worked on Saturdays for years. Mostly I did. I didn't mind working on Saturdays, but I did miss family days. A lot.

Family days have been sporadic over the last 8 months since I quit Outback and became available to the family again on Saturdays. In fact, Ainsley is still not quite sure what they are. That makes me sad. She asked me a little while ago if it meant we were going to be shopping today. And Onnie is not super excited this morning as she wanted to spend the day with her friend Jaleen at the mall. AND family day is starting much later today than usual, it is almost lunchtime. So not the ideal start...but I don't care. I am excited.

Today we are either going to the zoo...it is a free day. :) Or we are going to the Sportsman's Expo where there is supposed to be cool stuff like fishing for the kids. The temp is supposed to reach 50 today!! That's a heat wave after the negative four just a few days ago.

The sun is shining and adventure awaits with my family. :)

Friday, January 8, 2010

LOVE

Friday January 8, 8am

I am sitting in my favorite coffeehouse, Carino’s Coffee, sipping on a Hot Latin Latte. If you are from the southeast Denver area, you are familiar with this locally-owned gem. This is the place for meetings, for regulars, and it is a favorite for writers too. The coffee is top-notch, fair trade beans no less, which makes my heart happy. The d├ęcor is eclectic and warm, rich with local artists and the soothing tunes of local musicians they have in every Saturday. The baristas learn your name and your drink quickly. Best of all, it is not pretentious. They know they are good, the “Best Of’s” from the Aurora Sentinel line the walls in frames. But they just make coffee, with a smile. I love it. It is on the corner of Smoky Hill and Piccadilly in Aurora if you are ever in the neighborhood. And for a certain friend in Ohio, you will be happy to know I have given up Caribou for good. Eating AND drinking them, haha. ;)

Okay, now that I am done plugging my favorite coffee spot, I will get to what is on my mind this morning. I wrote a comment on a friend’s blog yesterday and the subject matter has not left my brain since. My comment did not directly follow the blog, as I figured out after re-reading the comment thread this morning. But it followed what my heart was telling me. A migraine muddled my thoughts yesterday and I did not get many of them down. Today is a new day, a headache free day, so I am plunging in.

The blog entry I commented on was an interview with a prominent former pastor, someone we have all heard of whether we go to church or not, a Mr. Ted Haggard. You can read the series of interview articles here:http://bit.ly/8NDBXk. I encourage you to subscribe to Donny’s blog if you are not already reading it. He has an amazing life story, is a great writer and believes in healthy debates about important stuff. He might respectfully disagree with your viewpoint, but he will be your friend at the end of the day, regardless of how the conversation goes.

The theme of the comments popping up yesterday on the blog focused on repentance, restoration, and love. I addressed the LOVE part. Or lack thereof from some of the other commentors.

This subject hit deep in my gut. Made me cry and want to scream at mean-spirited, legalistic, self-righteous people. Wow. That sure is showing love, isn’t it? I have read words, words by Donald Miller, by Rob Bell, by the people at XXXChurch, and by my friend Donny Pauling...words on love that have resonated in my soul. I'm not sure I can adequately form words to express how strongly I feel about this topic. But I will try.

I remember my parents loving others as I grew up. They built relationships with our neighbors, our ACTUAL living next door neighbors, and to my knowledge they did not speak negatively about “sinners”…aka…NCFs, Non-Christ Followers. There was criticism, but all aimed at fellow Christ followers, those who did wacky, non Christ-like things. But my mom and dad were good at loving people. I learned from them the world is a hurting place, and many people have the hurts they do because they do not have Jesus in their hearts. Now, I don’t think Jesus is the magic pill to take away all pain in our lives…sorry, I’m not a Joel Osteen groupie. But I got what they were saying as a young child. There was never condemnation of those who did not know Jesus, just the knowledge that we show love and tell others about Him if the chance came up. It was a beautiful thing as a child to learn this.

Then we switched churches. And denominations. We found those people that had been missing from our lives. Those self-righteous people. The ones with all the answers…the only “right” ones with God.

We found legalism.

I will not go into that story now. It is another one for another day.

But here's what I learned from them: You can’t genuinely love a person who has sin in his life. If you do not point the sin out and eventually alienate the person for unrepentant sin, you are condoning it. And then YOU go to Hell.

I am not saying my church solely taught me this, it was a combination of many attitudes and people. But I learned it just the same.

Because obviously people respond best to judgment and condemnation. Right? And we were put here on this Earth to be Spiritual Nazis for Jesus, right? Right? Wait, is that what I read in Matthew? Surely it must be in there somewhere…

I have spent the last ten years of my life digging legalism out of my heart. Ripping it up by the roots and killing the weeds that tenaciously pop back up. It is an insidious, choking thing that will suffocate all the love right out of your life.

I am a new person now. Changed by love. Transformed by the truth of LOVE, which says I am NO BETTER than anyone else and no less either. My sins are just as despicable as anyone else's on this planet, there are NO differentiations. I need Jesus daily, moment by moment, or I will turn back to my despicable sins. Jesus does not love me more or less than anyone else. I have love and hope to share of an incredible, loving, life-transforming relationship with the God of the universe. That is the only thing that makes me different from the prostitute down the street that doesn’t yet know Jesus. Or my gay friend Paul for example, since homosexuality was a topic of blog comments. The ONLY thing. Truly Jesus is the only difference. Can I say that again? JESUS IS THE ONLY DIFFERENCE. That deserved all caps.

Those of us who are Christ followers were shown love and made a choice at some point to accept that love. How does that make us superior in any way to those in our lives who haven’t yet seen or accepted that love? It is so strange the way we assess things in “religious” circles.

That’s all for now. I know, I left out Bible verses. Next time I will get to those. Or add some for me in the comments section. :) Thank you for reading. I know the topic was heavy and long, thank you for hanging in there with me. Look forward to next time.