It was in January that he said those words to me from his blue chair across the room to the left corner of the couch where I sat week after week. I knew he was right, but I didn't like it.
here's a little poem from my heart to yours -- let's join the brave love fight.
It's Valentine's Day. Whether you're loving someone or not, there's still a lot to love. Here's a fun list of the good stuff!
After two years of singleness, I found myself with three guys who wanted to date me, and date them, I did. It was wild. It was a whirlwind. Spoiler alert: here I am a few weeks later, still single. Here's what I learned.
Friends and family and well-meaning strangers, thank you for loving me so well. I know the heart behind your comments is one that is good and pure, but just know that I'm alive and well and happy and confident and content in my singleness. Please hear that.
This last week, so many things I read just resonated with me SO MUCH. And I want you all to read them all now. Here's a roundup of the best things I've read online recently! Enjoy.
"Don’t be the next anybody. Be deeply, weirdly, completely, totally you." // Shauna Niequist drops an awesome bomb with this post.
"I think my generation is venturing into some seriously uncharted waters, because while we’re hesitant to label relationships, we do participate in some deviation of them." // Jordana Narin won this year's Modern Love College Essay Contest from The New York Times, and it's a strikingly true look at what our generation has turned love and relationships into.
"If we were on a coffee date, I'd encourage you to write yourself letters. Buy yourself a journal and just write to you. Dear you and Love, me are powerful things." // Amber Thomas writes these posts as if you were on a coffee date with her, and every single time, I so deeply wish I was.
"For introverts who generate ideas best without the looming presence of others, knowing the topic in advance is key." // This post on the TED Blog is GREAT. Every brainstorm meeting I've been a part of has been stressful for me as an introvert, and this post has fantastic tips for making that NOT the case.
"We desperately need someone to tell us we are going to make it. To simple say, "I'll be there when you make it", and "I'll still be here while you make your way"." // Katherine Henson could have pulled these words from my very core, they struck me so deeply. They're the words I've been feeling and wrestling with but not really knowing how to say. These are the kinds of people I want.
"So here is my suggestion: Read a bit of poetry today." // Sarah Bessey reminded me of what my heart knows to be true: I need to surround myself with beautiful words that slow me down and open my eyes to lovely things. I need to read poetry today and every day.
"I love you" never means the same thing twice. So this is me, saying "I love you" in the form of little letters to the ones that hold slivers of my heart, in all the different ways those three little words take form.
Dear You, all four of you, our family has come out of your love. On both sides, you anchor us all, my parents, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins. That you once lived next door to each other on Flint Tavern Place is one of my favorite stories to tell. That my parents met because you four were first friendly neighbors is such a sweet story. That all four of you are alive and well and making your seventies look younger than ever is such a blessing. That all four of you never cease to remind me I am loved is such a gift. I'm so grateful for you. I'm grateful for every memory throughout all the years of my life made better by your love for our family.
Dear You, I can picture all of your faces now. I can just vaguely remember what it felt like to hug you, to hold your hand, to call you mine. I said I love you, and I know that I meant it, but I know that it was different than what I know love to be now. But I'm thankful for you, for all of you. For the months I spent by your side over the years, for the things you opened my eyes to, for the ways you helped my understanding of love to grow. I'll always be fond of all of you. Little parts of my heart will always be yours.
Dear You, for three years (and ever since), you have been an anchor for me. You loved me at my messiest, held me accountable, drew me back to Jesus time and time again, and made my life brighter and more full with your boundless joy and endless wisdom. You once told me I was a mirror, and I've never forgotten those words. You speak so much truth into my life and I'm so deeply thankful for your friendship and how it changes me.
Dear You, I'm proud of you. I don't say that enough. Ever since I can remember, you've been right there next to me, making everyone laugh with your antics, stealing the spotlight (and also my candy), making life infinitely more fun, and reminding me to just live a little. You'll always be little to me, even though you've shot up to be so much taller than me. You're smart, you're hilarious, you're talented, you're loyal, you're full of fun facts, and you make our family better in every way. I'm so, so proud you're part of us.
Dear You, you three make working feel so much more like fun. That I haven't ever met two of you face-to-face seems hilarious considering how close we all are. It's been a joy to be part of this team from the very beginning, even when it was hard too. You all are so talented and driven, and the work you do really is changing the world little by little. I'm proud to call you friends and co-workers and brothers in Christ.
Dear You, where would I be without You? Who would I be? I don't even want to think about that, don't ever want to go there. You saved me and You keep saving me. You loved me and You keep loving me. You redeemed me and You keep redeeming me. You gave me life and transform what it looks like day by day, breath by breath. My little heart full of love for You will never be enough, but I want to pour it all out at Your feet every day in every way anyway. Every bone in my body and every beat of my heart sing out "I love You, I love You, I love You."
Thankful: feeling or expressing gratitude; appreciative.
I'm thankful for freedom. For the kind that comes from living in a country where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are protected and defended daily. For the kind that comes from being washed in the blood of a sinless Savior who died to release my chains and draw me close to His side forever. For the kind that lets me worship, lets me write and speak and publish, lets me love, lets me live as I do.
I'm thankful for grace. For the undeserved gift of extravagant, amazing grace that washes over me and floods me and changes everything about me.
I'm thankful for family. For all the people that have known me from my first breath and support me unconditionally. For the memories, the traits and the traditions we all share. For the times we can all be close even though we all live far.
I'm thankful for community. For a church that is vibrant, alive, welcoming, growing. For my small group and how we've grown as believers, people and friends over the past year. For my circle of friends who laugh with me, eat with me, adventure with me, do life with me. For the Rethink guys and The Rising team and all of their persistence and dedication to changing the world through their words and their art. For the #fireworkpeople who light up every day with beautiful encouragement and passion and fire.
I'm thankful for change. For a different life and different goals and different dreams today than I had last year, because that means I'm growing. For new circumstances and new challenges, because they mean that life is moving onward and I'm not stuck.
I'm thankful for technology. For being able to make friends all over the world through Facebook and Twitter and blogs. For a platform I can use to share my heart through my writing with anyone.
I'm thankful for creativity. For museums full of art from centuries past to remind us where we came from, what we saw, what we found beautiful and meaningful. For websites full of words that challenge and inspire and connect us. For crafts and for dance and for murals and for music.
I'm thankful for joy. For giggles from children discovering new things in this world. For laughter shared with friends that brings tears to our eyes and aches to our stomachs. For a deeply rooted freedom that bubbles over in trusting faith and lasting happiness and unwavering belief.
I'm thankful for forgiveness. for redemption. for healing.
I'm thankful for unity. for shared meals. for solitude.
I'm thankful for the unexpected. for provision. for protection.
I'm thankful for Jesus. for the resurrection. for salvation.
I'm thankful for life.
I'm thankful for love.
Last week, I shared a story from one of my favorite couples about their first year of marriage. Today, you'll hear from another one of my favorite couples about their fifty years of marriage.
The couple sharing their story today have impacted my life from the very beginning in incredible ways. They have raised a family I am so proud to be a part of and left a legacy of love that I aspire to have myself someday. They are my grandparents and I'm so blessed to have them in my life.
Even though I grew up in Arizona, far away from Northern Virginia where my grandparents live, so many childhood memories include them. We saw them at least about once a year, and they always made me feel so loved, cherished and special. I remember sitting with my grandma on the couch in their living room and the sound of her voice as she read to me, I remember how all of the play kitchen toys smelled like cinnamon and allspice because she gave me empty spice containers. My grandpa always has his pockets full of peppermints to pass down the aisle to every one of us at church, he always shakes everyone's hand and introduces us proudly to his friends-- he knows and loves everyone. He always greets us with our first and middle names in his booming voice and always asks for a hug or a kiss, and won't let you get through the front door without one.
I remember picking blackberries near their house as a kid with their miniature schnauzer tagging along, exploring the creek in their backyard and catching crawfish, playing rowdy games of pounce around the kitchen table when everyone's in town, watching slideshows of all their old pictures and laughing at the hilarious haircuts and fashions throughout the years, driving my grandma's new convertible when I was 16 and so jealous she had a cooler car than the minivan I got to use, countless cookouts on their deck with the best food, Christmases with a live tree and more presents than we ever asked for and Grandpa's seemingly bottomless Santa sack of extra gifts for everyone.
They took me on one of the best trips of my life after I graduated high school-- 8 days in France that I'll never forget. They helped me buy my first car, they gave me a generous gift of spending money during my summer in London, they gave me old couches when I got my first apartment on my own...they are the greatest gift givers I know, and I'm so deeply thankful for their generous and selfless hearts.
My grandparents make everyone they meet feel loved. Whether through sending Christmas cards to friends they haven't seen in years or cooking feasts for the ones in their home or giving gifts or finding quality time to spend with each of us, I know we all know without a shadow of a doubt how deeply they love and care for us all, near or far.
Every time our family gets together (which thankfully is so much more often now that we live within two hours of them), I love hearing the stories of my grandpa's years in the Air Force and how my mom and my two uncles grew up living in different places around the world. I love hearing about my grandma's childhood on a farm in Ohio and how she and her twin dated the man the other is now married to.
My grandparents are uniquely different as individuals, but together, they are a strong and loving couple and they just recently celebrated fifty years of marriage. We celebrated with a huge party with all of our extended family flying in to town and all of my grandparents' friends gathering to mingle and dance and laugh for hours together. Seeing that ballroom full of people that know and love my grandparents made my heart swell-- they have made lasting impacts on the lives of people young and old all around the world in their lives and through their relationship, and it was such a beautiful thing to see.
Just recently, they went on an RV road trip for two weeks to relive the honeymoon road trip they took 50 years ago, and wrote this story while they were adventuring around New England. How cool is that?!
Their marriage is one I look to and admire, one I hope my future marriage might come close to matching. I love them both so much and am forever thankful to be a part of the wonderful family they've raised.
Here is Kay and Ken's story of their marriage.
In the beginning of our marriage we were just getting used to sharing space with someone else and learning what it was like to accommodate to another's needs and wants. Suddenly you become a twosome and not an individual any more.
Even though I am a twin and grew up sharing home, family, friends and everything else with someone, being married was different. With my twin I felt completely comfortable, like she knew me inside and out, like I knew her. We had always been together, even in the womb, but living with a man that I had only known for a year or so and had limited time with was so different.
We grew up with different patterns of living, different interactions with family members and had different life experiences and tastes. Now, as newlyweds, we needed to learn to adapt our individual lives to someone else. We had to learn how to compromise, give a little, not always do things our way. We had to learn how to appreciate where the other person was coming from, We realized our tastes in decorating our home, the foods we liked to eat, the way we wanted to raise our children and the things we think are important were different from each other. We had to get to know and get along with each other’s group of friends. We also had to make new friends together that we both could enjoy. We became each other's best friend.
Being newlyweds we had to learn patience with each other, how to know when the other person needed more attention, love, and understanding. We had to learn how to share our living space and tolerate differences in what TV shows to watch, what movie to see, what to do in our spare time.
But now, after fifty years, we have adapted totally to each other. We can tell what the other one is thinking, and we sometimes are thinking the exact same thing at the same time because something triggered a similar reaction or thought. We know how to be patient with each other, to know when to give the other one their space, to accomodate to each other in so many ways that we don’t even realize we are accommodating.
We have learned to like similar things and to accept that we won’t be doing certain things we may have done ourselves because we know that it is something the other one wouldn’t enjoy. We do this because we want to please the other person. If we didn’t learn to compromise, adapt, have patience, and most of all love the other person the way they are and not try to change them, our marriage would have fallen apart.
Marriage is a two-way street, both partners need to do these things and find out through trial and error what works for them and their marriage.
In the beginning, passion is strong and it takes little to spark the fire. After fifty years together, the passion has died down a little but the spark is still there and can be rekindled at any time. Each marriage is unique in itself and will require different adjustments to make it work.
There are always ups and downs, good times and bad, in all marriages. But we have learned what works for us and we are happy, fulfilled, still in love and have celebrated 50 wonderful years together.
When we got married we promised to love each other in sickness and in health, for better or worse until death us do part. That is a promise we both took seriously and have kept and will continue to keep.
I’m at a table in a crowded restaurant, a place I come to write because it usually isn’t busy and the tea is always good.
I’m surrounded by three older couples, nestled somewhere in age between my parents and my grandparents. One couple, I overheard, has been married for 52 years. One couple has been sitting in silence the entire meal, not a single word or even a glance toward one another. The last chose their table because the wife wanted to accommodate her long-legged husband. All three have caught my eye.
The first two haven’t stopped talking since I walked in. There’s a joyful constant banter between them. There’s a crossword puzzle on the table between them, she has the pen, he’s telling her what to write. They have matching coffee mugs pushed to the side, empty and obviously enjoyed. They can’t take their eyes off of each other. He’s telling her stories, gesturing big and wide, and she laughs so much she starts coughing while he pauses until she recovers. Their love is clear, simple, sweet. Their faces are weathered and covered in deep wrinkles that show they’ve gone through much over the years. I wonder if this is their weekly routine, if this is their spot, if they always share crossword puzzles and coffee like this. I look at them and see the kind of love I hope to have--the kind of love that doesn’t need a five star restaurant and a fancy date and a big show of things, the kind of love that they can’t help but share with the man clearing away their plates.
“They say every man is entitled to one good dog or one good woman,” the husband said. “And me, I’ve got them both.”
Pure gold. If I ever write a country song, that will be the chorus.
The second couple, they’re the silent ones. Maybe the words have just run out between them. Maybe the years took them away, silenced them. Or maybe they’re just tired. Maybe each other’s company is all they need tonight. Maybe that’s enough. Maybe this is their routine, too, and they just don’t need to fill the air with talk about this crazy rain or if their food is good. I look at them and wonder what their story is, wonder why the talking’s gone and they don’t even make eye contact.
The third couple, their love is familiar, selfless, accommodating. She beelined straight for the table by the window, but then turned for the table in the middle of the busy room, saying to her husband, “you’ll have more leg room here, you’ll be more comfortable.” He passed his baguette over to her when she finished hers so she would have more to dip in the soup she still had left. They shared a smoothie, passing it back and forth. They’re wearing matching Teva sandles and their cheeks are rosy in all the same places like they’ve been sharing sunlight and adventures together lately. They know each other well, it’s obvious. She can’t take her eyes off of him, even when he’s talking to someone walking by. She has a look of magic in those eyes, a look of adoration that has lasted a long time.
What makes love like that last? What makes a man now bent over and leaning on a cane still call his wife his bride, still open the door for her as they leave? What makes the words still flow even after years of conversation, or what makes them stay unspoken?
What I saw was simplicity, three instances of two people being together, being present. Whether they spoke or sat still, they were there together, no phones, no screens, no technology putting walls up between them. They knew each other well, knew when to give and share and when to wait and just enjoy sharing space together.
The sky outside the window next to me is dark and threatening, the rain is pelting hard against the glass, leaves whipping around, and I look at these couples, and I know they’ve weathered storms, too. I don’t know what their storms or stories are, but I can see in the lines on their faces and the light in their eyes and in the little ways they interact that they’ve gone through much on their journey to today, and it's beautiful.
It’s just Panera. It’s just a Thursday evening. But Panera on this Thursday was special to me. Three couples showed me love lasts and looks different every time, and that made my heart smile. Three couples showed me sharing a table and sharing a meal and sharing space is worth carving out time for, because I think it’s simple little things like that that keep love going strong and going long.
Would I have been one of them? When You were before the high priest and his elders and other teachers of religious law, when false witnesses and slanderers were telling fabricated tales against You, would I have been one of them? Would I have been one among that crowd, a voice adding to the noise? Would I have slipped into that coursing current of judgment and pride, afraid to be the singular voice defending You? Even Peter, one who knew You well and spent years by your side and had heard You speak and seen Your heart, even he denied you. Would I have, too? Do I now? Do I hide in a society full of voices trying to find evidence to condemn You? Do I cry "guilty!" like all the rest? Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers...
In the presence of You, Majesty, what do I do? At times, I say silent, ashamed, knowing my sin was what held you to that cross even when not a single trace of evidence was found to condemn You to that end. At times, I yell out against You, wanting to put the blame on You, the pain on You, anything to try to justify myself. And at times, I, like Peter, break down and weep, knowing I am broken, knowing I haven't been the follower of You I so desperately long to be, knowing I've denied You when I should have been bold and proclaimed Your truth and Your name. You are I AM. We will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God's right hand. You are holy, set apart, perfect, innocent, glorious, Savior. In the presence of all You are, I fall short, ashamed, unworthy, full of sin and shame. I've denied You, Jesus, I've turned away. Yet in the beauty of all You are, You make me whole, You make me clean, You take it all away because that price has been paid. My sin was what drove those nails, what took Your life. Your love was what redeemed me, saved me, set me free. My life is for Your glory, flawed and fragile as I am. May I take up my own cross, sacrificing all just to follow where You lead me, from earth into eternity.
I'm doing it again. I'm blogging about The Bachelor. Maybe I should make this a thing that I do...but then again, maybe not.
Juan Pablo's season finale was tonight. My goodness, this season. "MOST DRAMATIC SEASON EVER." "SHOCKING FINALE." "YOU'VE NEVER SEEN A FINALE LIKE THIS." Okay, okay.
It's a TV show. It's not reality. It's a fantasy, it's a few weeks for heaven's sake, it's all rainbows and roses and lots of making out. And at the end of it all, Chris Harrison spent the whole post-finale show grilling Juan Pablo about why he wouldn't say he loved Nikki, the girl who got the final rose.
His logic was this: how he feels is private. How he feels doesn't need to be shared with the world. How he feels doesn't need to be told to anyone but Nikki.
On one hand, I respect that. It isn't real life when you're flying around the world on a show with so many other women, and I have to respect and totally understand that he might not totally know if he loves her yet or not.
But if he does really love her? And he still doesn't want to talk about it or let the public know, because he thinks it should be secret and private?
I feel differently when it comes to love.
I'm a Christian. I have a relationship with Jesus Christ. And if you were to sit me down on a plush couch surrounded by candles and roses and a studio audience and ask me if I loved this person I'm in a relationship with, I would absolutely say yes. It would be a big, bold, resounding, exciting, passionate, whole-hearted, big fat YES. I would repeat it over and over, beaming from ear to ear, giddy and overflowing and full of uncontainable joy. I wouldn't hide it. I wouldn't say it didn't matter to anyone else. I wouldn't say it was something I should just keep between me and Him.
When you love someone deeply and truly, you love them out loud. You want to shout it from rooftops. You want to tell your mom and your cousins and any stranger who happens to look at you on the street. You don't want to be secretive about it, you don't want to be sneaky, you don't want to beat around the bush.
My point is not to bash Juan Pablo. He's had enough of that on Twitter already. My point is that love shouldn't be just in secret. Superficial "love" might be something you want to keep hush-hush, so when (not if) it fails, it's not a big ordeal. But real love? True love? The love of a gracious, good, glorious Father? That is absolutely one love that should never be kept inside or hidden from the world.
Reality television "love" may be glamorous, but real, sacrificial, go to a cross to give it all up for you love, that's extravagant. That's real. That's agape love.
Jesus came from heaven to earth to be crucified and buried to show his love for us, paying the ultimate sacrifice out of perfect love and redeeming us when He rose again so we could live in love with Him forever. We should shout that love out as loud as we can. Not on street corners with big signs and Bibles thumping, but in the way we love, in the way we serve, in the way we live. We should go the ends of the earth and every corner of our neighborhoods, proclaiming His name, sharing His heart, sacrificing much and worshipping in all.
It won't be a free vacation around the world, jet-setting from one exotic location to the next, all-expenses-paid with a camera crew and lots of crazy dates. It will be hard, it will be exhausting, it will be lonely, and it will be so very worth it. There won't be a rose waiting at the end, there will be heaven. There won't be a man on one knee, there will be a Savior with open arms. There won't be interviews and front page stories, there will be worship and unending praise.
I want to love my Lord out loud. No secrets, no hiding how I feel, no skirting around the issue. That might be how a Bachelor would do it, but this believer is doing it differently.