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Grieving Christmas Before Moving Into 2014

3 Jan
It's A Small World will go back to being normal, too.

It’s A Small World will go back to being normal, too.

I’ll admit it, I’m grieving the holiday season. It’s over. The tree is about to go to the recycling spot. The twinkling lights are in a ball on my living room floor because I just haven’t had the heart to put them away yet. The Christmas cards are still hanging next to my door, but those too will soon come down. Last remenants of Christmas candy and cookies are in our pantry either to be forgotten in leiu of healthier options.

It was a good Christmas. It was relaxing to be with family. It was nice to go to church again with my dad and to remember how much Jesus loves us. It was neat to see a whole gaggle of kids open presents again at my husband’s family Christmas party. It was good to take a flight again and then to drive through the desert home with Mark.

I like peppermint mochas, the smell of pine. I like looking at mall santas and seeing how closely they resemble the Santa Claus of collective memory. I like the traditions. Seeing the same Christmas ornaments come out and adorn the tree year after year. It gave me a sense of stability for another year full of lots of changes. I liked having permission to not look for a job. I liked knowing that I’ll have a few days of rest and my mom’s cooking. I enjoyed a Christmas party with college friends who have all come back together after marriages, babies, and job transitions.

And then came the rest of the holidays. New Year’s Eve wasn’t really on our calendar. I figure we would just get to it eventually. And we did. More with a wimper than a bang. Mark was sick with what I think is bronchitis and he threw out his back that day. While I’d hoped we’d be able to go for a bike ride, we were mostly inside for a few days. It wasn’t all bad. I roasted my first chicken! We had our first two Monopoly games together! And last night, we discussed God in a new way. We wondered if he was trying to tell us something considering we’ve both been so sick lately. We talked about churches and what we both hope to get out of one. It was good to talk. I’m glad we’ve been sick because it’s forced us to be together to talk and figure things out. We’re in new season and new is often hard at first until it becomes more familiar.

Grieving is like that. It’s looking back. Fondly remembering. Acknowledging the loss and being able to move on. 2013 was a good year. And the holidays that followed at the end were nice. Sweet times with family. Fun with kids. Lots of game playing, eating good food, and resting. Time to be thankful and remember the blessings I have.

Now it’s time to get to work. 2014 is going to be the year I pursue life and go after what God has for me in a new way!

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2012 Was, In Many Ways, A Horrible Year…And Yet…

10 Jan
Can We Dare To Hope After A Year Like 2012?

Can We Dare To Hope After A Year Like 2012?

It’s that time of year when we consider where we’ve been and where we want to go. Let’s look back in hopes that it can help us make sense of things so as to move forward:

Oh Lord, you know us so well. You know when we sit and when we rise. You perceive all of our thoughts from afar…

2012 was a very disturbing year in a lot of ways. I became increasingly aware of how fragile life is and how hard grief can hit home when, in February, a 15-year-old kid took his own life by jumping off of his school roof in the town next to the Community Center where I worked. The trend continued when, in July, a gunman shot and killed 12 people in the mall where I grew up. How chilling. How unexpected. Death seemed so close. And to what purpose?

You know this season that we are in where it is hard to see the good amidst all of the pain...

In the fall, death knocked again and I lost my Grandmother. Although not sudden, I didn’t really have the opportunity to say goodbye because life got in the way and I had to keep moving forward. With the end of the year came the end of the world, or so said the Mayans. A minute part of me thought that maybe it would actually happen because although I’m not a cynical person, the news seems to be getting worse lately and fear is at an all time high. I wouldn’t believe it if it wasn’t reflected in some of our movies like “The Dark Knight Rises” where, for most of the film, Batman is thwarted by a pervasive evil that he just can’t seem to overcome. Half of me thought he wouldn’t be able to beat Bane but the title did have “Rise” in the title, which gave me a little hope.

 You know all of our suffering. 

So many questions, where are all of the answers?

So many questions, where are all of the answers?

And then in the political arena came doomsday talk of “If Obama wins, it’s over” and “If Romney wins, the country will never be the same.” And although I’ve never really seen a James Bond film, can someone tell me why even the title, “Skyfall”, sounds so ominous? And does he always let women die in these movies? I found it more than a little disturbing that some psychopath, played by Javier Bardem, was so obsessed with killing Judy Dench’s character that the whole movie was based on some sort of misogynistic revenge plot against women. James Bond, himself, wasn’t much better, letting the Bond girl die when, minutes later he was rescued via helicopter. He could have stopped her from getting shot. Amidst all of that came Newtown and the tragedy that struck there. What a horrific cap to an already collectively tough year for us all. Where is the hope when 6 year olds get murdered just for showing up to school?

Comfort the needy. Bring peace to the anxious. 

As a caveat to explain my morose tone, I write this at the beginning of January, two days after learning that my dad’s cousin, who was like an aunt to me, lost her 7 year battle to breast cancer. And all that I can do is cry out. Oh Lord, why? Where’s your hope? Where is your peace? Can you please comfort us?

Can We Approach 2013 with Child-like Innocence?

Can We Approach 2013 with Child-like Innocence?

I can’t help but believe that we need God more than ever now. We need more good news. More good stories. Stories of hope and life. Stories to help us remember that the news isn’t so bleak and that we’re going to make it through this dark season.

 Hear our cry, oh Lord and grant us hope and grace to love despite the evil in this world.

On a cold (for California) night when we’re just ten days into the new year, dare I hope that joy is still here? Dare I pray for God to show up in the midst of all of this? Dare I not?! I have to cling. Because clinging is all I really know how to do to cope with all which seems overwhelming.

Hebrews says it best: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.”

Unswerving. That means to hold on tight no matter what. When the waves are high, when the outlook is bleak. When my soul is downtrodden. When bad things happen to good people. When trying seems pointless. When effort feels wasted. When people die. When the unexpected happens and the healthy become sick. When love is lost. When jobs don’t pan out. When I’m feeling alone and unsure. I hope. I cling.

Help us now, God. We need you. 

So I dare to hope that 2013 is a year of adventure and newness. I hope for a rebirth. I hope for love. I hope for new beginnings and fresh starts. To put behind what was and to hold tight to the hope that I have not yet seen. I hope for good finishes to things I’ve completed and many moments where I’m able to release the breath I’ve had all pent-up in my throat so that I can find peace. With myself. With my life. With death. And with God.

Amen. 

Hope On A LilypadAnd so the whole prayer, we say again slowly, hopefully, and together: Oh Lord, you know us so well. You know when we sit and when we rise. You perceive all of our thoughts from afar. You know this season that we are in where it is hard to see the good amidst all of the pain. You know all of our suffering. Comfort the needy. Bring peace to the anxious. Hear our cry, oh Lord and grant us hope and grace to love despite the evil in this world. Help us now, God. We need you. Amen. 

 

 

 

Taylor Swift Thinks We Should Fall Into Love. Without Being A Cynic, I Disagree

25 Oct

Goofy picture. Really goofy. My idea. Good one? I look ridiculous.

I recently became a high school leader at my church’s youth group on Wednesdays.  Last night, I had the distinct privilege of getting to hear thoughts on love from a group of smart, in-tune, and vocal 14 year old girls while they discussed our culture’s idea of romantic love.

I’m not an ageist but the girls’ remarks were surprisingly self-aware and wise!

What I learned from this conversation, took me years of counseling and several dead-end relationships with unrealistic expectations (on my part) to discover and they are only 14. I was impressed.

While I don’t remember the exact quote, I do remember the girls excitedly talking over each other about how popular culture tells them that love means ball gowns, princesses, and “forever”. One girl reminded me that Sleeping Beauty got married after one kiss.

“ONE KISS!” she cried. “And she was asleep!”

Another girl assured me that she’s been through “all of that” (love) and believe it or not, it’s not the way it turns out. What?! What the heck was I doing at 14? Oh yeah, still playing house.

While I was intrigued by the girls’ realization about romantic love in this day and age, I realize that knowing something in your head and then following it through in your actions are two different things.

These same young girls who seem to know that Disney princesshood is not real also read Twilight and scream when a Taylor Swift song comes on.  And who could blame them? I have an annual pass to Disneyland and I like TSwift just as much as the next girl. I sing her songs at the top of my lungs in the car with my roommate. I’ll probably sing some tonight since my roommate just bought “Red.”

But I have to call TSwift out.  Taylor’s philosophy on “love” is a little off the mark:

“The way I look at love is you have to follow it, and fall hard, if you fall hard. You have to forget about what everyone else thinks,” she said in a Rolling Stone interview.  “It has to be an us-against-the-world mentality. You have to make it work by prioritizing it, and by falling in love really fast, without thinking too hard. If I think too hard about a relationship I’ll talk myself out of it. …I have rules for a lot of areas of my life. Love is not going to be one of them.” –Taylor Swift

Oh Taylor, Taylor, Taylor…you’ve done so well to make millions off of these beliefs. I give you credit for being someone who has profited more off of failed relationships than just about anyone I can think of. You’re only 22. I felt like you did when I was 22 but I’m not sure you realize what you’re doing to your soul when you buy into that methodology. Or what you’re doing to the souls of your followers, 14 year olds worldwide who may not be as wise as my young friends.

I’m all about giving yourself to something you believe in, but going into love blindly is just stupid. I say this because I’ve done it. My  friends have done it.

You can’t just check your brain at the door when it comes to love, or you’ll end up hurt and embarrassed quite possibly making decisions you regret for the rest of your life.  

If Taylor doesn’t believe me, then why does she get so freaked out when Ellen parades her ex’s pictures in front of her?

If anything, you need to start thinking MORE when you decide to get in a relationship. I’m not talking about neurotic insecure overthinking that women especially can sometimes tend to do.  I’ve also been that kind of girlfriend.

You need  to think about the kind of relationship you’re getting into before you fall into it. Is it wise? Do you have friends and family keeping you accountable to staying grounded? Are you a better person when you’re with the person or without them?  Does this person treat you well? How do you treat them? Are you even ready to be in a relationship or do you need to maybe take a break and try to determine what patterns you have when it comes to dating? Are you making being in a relationship an idol, believing that a guy/girl will make all of your dreams come true?  A song about these questions might be boring but most of us are looking for healthy relationships, not a serial dating history.

I just found out that Taylor and Conor Kennedy are kaput. Am I surprised? He was a high school senior, only 18. She was jetsetting around the world making a ton of money on songs about her ex-boyfriends. It wasn’t really going to work out anyway, was it?

Friends and Taylor (if by some crazy chance you’re reading this). Take stock. Sit with some of these questions. You need to ask the hard questions if you want to have a healthy, lasting, and mature relationship.  That’s part of becoming and being an adult.  You have to think about your decisions and ask yourself, “Is this wise?” If it’s not, don’t even go there.

My young friends don’t need more examples of fairytale endings that aren’t realistic or breakups that could have been prevented. They need examples of good, solid, low-drama relationships full of love, acceptance and grace.  But that might not sell records. And I’m okay with that.

It’s Not About The Pants!

25 Oct

I got the opportunity to guest blog for “A Beautiful Mess” awhile back. Many of you read it, but I thought I would post a link here in case you missed it! Thanks for reading!

Read it HERE!

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