Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Love Day for All

"Its a kissing day."

That was Mischief's response when I asked him about Valentine's Day.

"What if you don't have anyone to kiss?" I asked.

"Then you're lucky. Kissing is gross. And weird. And germy," replied Crafty. (keep thinking that for at least 50 years, Girl!)

Valentine's Day has long been a point of irritation for me and I have ranted on several occasions about it (here in 2012 and here in 2011) and this year is no different. It irks me that once a year people are left hoping, expecting, wishing and lamenting about their love life because some marketing genius decided that love is a hot commodity. Once a year, women fret about whether their lover (if they even have one) is going to love them to their set expectations and men sweat it out in jewellery stores and flower shops, spending scads of cash in hopes of reinforcing their affection. Ridiculous!

A friend recently said it perfectly, "If you need Valentine's Day to remind you to love your loved one, you've got problems no chocolate heart will ever fix!"

So its with that thought in mind, as I bask in the security of Mr. Awesome's love all 365 days this year, that we are preparing to celebrate our 12th annual Family Love Day. The streamers are hung, the love notes are written and the red food colouring has been bought. In the morning, the kids will wake to a red and white kitchen, strewn with hearts and ample opportunity to express, to each other, just how awesome it is to be part of This Random Family.

Aside from all the Family Love this year, we've been talking to our kids about finding a way to love those who are tough to love. As part of our 52 Weeks of Giving Challenge the kids have been praying for their own personal Unlovelies but today, Dude of all people, put that love into action.

Since the beginning of the school year Dude has been having a tough time with this kid, David. Dude and David have clashed on nearly a daily basis with things coming to a head last week when David took a swing at Dude and Dude gave David a swift boot. After that incident we talked several times about being a peacemaker and finding a better way to express anger. Even after talking with me, the vice-principal and the guidance councillor I didn't think we were making much headway ... until today.

Today, Dude came running out of the school at the end of the day. As he jumped into the jeep he flashed me a huge grin and declared, "I did it!"

"Did what?" I asked.

"I talked with David and we've decided to be friends."


"Yeah. We talked and I agreed to not threaten him and he agreed to not say everything that comes into his brain. And absolutely no more punching and kicking. We went around and told all the important teachers."

I didn't want to badger him, so I just congratulated him on making a good choice and being a peacemaker. I'm dying to ask him how and why and when and who helped and a million other things but I won't. My prayer for my kids is always that they will take the lessons we try to teach and the conversations we have and make them their own, find a way to live them out in their world. Because of that, I'll just have to settle for not knowing the details and just celebrate the moment with my beautiful, compassionate, growing boy!

Tomorrow, however you choose to celebrate, be sure to love an Unlovely or a Lonely or a Random Stranger. Give your smile freely. Offer words of encouragement. Notice people, really, really see them. And love lavishly!

"Life is messy. Love is messier." – Catch and Release

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

#52 Weeks of Giving: Week 7

We are still working on the logistics of Week 6 and when we get it sorted out, you'll be the first to know but for now ... we're on to week 7.

Since we've started this year of giving the kids have been great about finding other ways to give, looking for opportunities to bless other people and show kindness in their everyday life. I was pretty proud today when I heard Mischief tell his class that you can use your passion ("the thing that makes your heart excited") to help other people and when Crafty explained to me that she was trying to be a peacemaker at school by not calling a certain boy names even though he was really bugging her. I think the kids are starting to 'get it'.

This week the challenge is 'To be a Blessing!'

This week choose one person you can bless with an Act of Service. It has to be something you wouldn't normally do for someone you wouldn't normally bless. Be creative!

James 2:14 - 17
   Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

The challenge for week 7 happened to coincide with some things I was reading in the book of James in the New Testament of the Bible. As I read the words of this letter something stirred in my heart. Questions began to cycle through my mind and I didn't like all of the answers.

People like to think they're good, especially church going folks. We like to think we are kind to others, generous and forgiving but are we really? Or is that just our 'church face'? And those who don't attend church or ascribe to a certain faith aren't off the hook here. There are just as many non-churched folks who think they are 'good' people simply because they don't cheat or murder people on a regular basis. But is that criteria good enough?

Not for me.

I like to think I'm a generous, thoughtful person but I know that's not always the case. I'm always kind and good and generous to people I like and when its convenient. Sometimes I'm kind and generous to people I like when its inconvenient and to people I don't like when its convenient. I'm rarely kind or generous to people I don't like or know when its inconvenient. I say I am but really, I'm not. That's why reading this passage in James felt like a kick in the pants.

Basically, James is calling us on our flaky behaviour. He's reminding us its not enough to appear to be loving and connected if we aren't really. It's not good enough to wear a ribbon or a wristband in support of a cause if you don't really support the cause. Its not enough to make social justice your trend, its not enough. Its not enough for the people on the other end of your trendy cause, the ones with incurable diseases and no clean drinking water, and it shouldn't be enough for you.

In another passage, James compares words of faith without actions to back it up to a body without a spirit; just another corpse. I don't want to be a corpse. I don't want to say the right words without having the actions to back it up. So as I look at this week's challenge and all the challenges of this year I am trying to find tangible ways to connect my faith and my understanding of what is right to my life. I want to live better, to serve better, to love better.

Join us in putting actions to those intentions. Join us in bringing life to an old corpse, to making justice more than a trend. Join us is giving past convenience and being as good as we can be. For real.

Denouncing evil is a far cry from doing good.
― Philip Gourevitch

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

52 Weeks of Giving: Week 5 Debrief

Normally, when I recap a week I talk about what the kids have learned but these past couple of weeks have had me in the hot seat and although the kids are learning I feel compelled to talk about what's been stirring in my heart.

Week 5, before 'the break,' was about praying for the people who are annoying or mean or irritating. This is something I've done for a number of years and seriously, it has brought me peace and a deeper understanding that people aren't really morons, sometimes they are just drowning in their own stuff and they don't realize how they are affecting others. I'm pretty comfortable with myself on this point so I didn't expect the growing pains that have been mine these last couple of weeks.

I have a pal who has been walking a rocky road in one of her other friendships. There has been misunderstandings that have lead to hurt and a break down in that circle of friends. I've spent some time talking this out with her and encouraging her to keep on keeping on. I know exactly how she feels because I've been in the same boat. Seriously, who hasn't?

Ladies, I'm talking to you now.

What's with us? Why is it so hard to walk in grace and drop hurt? Why do we so desperately cling to offence and our right to be right? Why do we so often choose pride over relationship? Why can't we recognize that we are each walking our own path, each facing our own struggles and we could each use a little more grace and a little less judgement?

There is this fire inside me to see women come together in friendship, in unity for the sake of our families, for the sake of our communities, for the sake of ourselves. I know that there is tremendous power in true friendship. I know that there is a deep well of love, esteem and appreciation in the heart of every woman for those they hold dear. I know because I have experienced it in my own heart and in the hearts of my closest friendships.

I also know that there is no one who can bring pain, hurt, envy, jealousy, strife and heart break like a woman. There is no being on the planet more calculating, vengeful and destructive to a woman than another woman. I have seen women crushed, devastated and humiliated at the words of another woman. I have seen self esteem crumble in one just by the mere glance of another. Its true, that old saying, those who you love the most have the greatest power to hurt you.

So why do we do this to each other? Why do we do this to ourselves?

I don't know. But I have an idea of how to stop it, how to move beyond the hurt. This goes back to the Week 5 Challenge. Prayer. It was while I was praying for some of those I find difficult to love that I had an IGIM ("I got it moment") about chicks and relationships.

Relationships have seasons.

Okay, I didn't say it was a new revelation or some kind of major epiphany. Its just something that finally clicked for me. Relationships have seasons. I finally figured out what this means to me and to my friendships.

I used to hate hearing that phrase. I thought it was flippant and dismissive and an excuse to quit when the going got tough. I would lament for years when I had a falling out with a pal or lost contact with someone. It would bother me to no end that I had this floating string just hanging there, off of me, where a person used to be connected to me. But something clicked these last few weeks and here's the second part to that IGIM, the part that made everything snap into focus for me ...

Reconciliation doesn't always mean a return to relationship. Sometimes its a coming together so you can part ways peacefully.

I think we, women, torture each other in friendship because we don't know how to let go gracefully. We hold tight to a relationship that has run its course, we love until we hate. We are so afraid of being alone that we often times choke the life out of a friendship in our desperate attempt to keep it close. I know I have. But I have also seen the most remarkable thing when I let go, when I yield to the natural ebb and flow of friendship, when I release my death grip in favour of opening my hands and heart to life. I have seen life and light and growth.

In recent years, when I have felt the drift of time, distance and circumstance enter one of my friendships I have taken a deep breath and let go. I haven't withdrawn or retreated. I haven't pulled away from the relationship, I've relaxed. I've accepted that sometimes things change but I have also left the door open to continue the relationship in a different way or at a later time. I have honoured the friendship enough not to suffocate it to death. And in this I have found a sense of peace and unity in my relationships that I have never known before.

I'm not sure if this is making sense. The thing is, we can have unity while we go our separate ways. We can have community apart because true, honest to goodness sisterhood is about respect and grace, not about hierarchy of friendship. Life comes from respect, not comparison and judgement. Authentic relationship is about celebrating our uniqueness and living with grace.

There is more to this, more to be said but for now ...  pray for each other. Respect each other. Love each other enough to let go and grow.

The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be the beginning.  ~Ivy Baker Priest