The Soul Feels Its Worth

It’s Christmas. I can tell because I have remnants of White Elephant parties piling up on my dresser: dollar store candles and signed pictures of Screech from Saved By The Bell. Someone got a live lobster at one party, but I was not so lucky.

I can tell because I begrudgingly have the Christmas Pandora station playing in my kitchen, the singers crooning in all of their insincere glory.  (Gloria Estefan, do you really want to see Christmas Through My Eyes? Mariah Carey, is it true that all you want for Christmas is me? Paraphrasing Love Actually: it may be crap music but it’s solid gold crap!)

I can tell because my heart, oh my poor heart is in the weird paradoxical state it is always in this time of year. One moment feeling so incredibly loved, the next feeling so incredibly lonely. One moment feeling  so grateful for my life, the next feeling like I am done with the storyline I’m living and that I want a new one. As soon as possible.

Christmas is the great reminder that my life is not like the nebulous phantom family life that is out there floating in the universe that all of us are supposed to compare our own families with. For some odd reason, we feel this pressure to weigh our our own situations to see if they live up to some magical standard that perhaps no family actually has.

Inevitably though, every year, I have something that shakes me out of my me coma long enough to remember the incredible, mind blowing mystery that we are celebrating.

This year, that something was this footage of the Andromeda galaxy. (Stick with it until the end if possible so you can picture the scale I’m talking about.)

What we just saw is one tiny speck of one galaxy. Scientists believe that there are around one hundred billion galaxies. To help you understand that number, if God were to give you one galaxy every second, it would take around 3,200 years for him to give you all the galaxies of the universe.

Mind officially blown.

Mind blown

What is even crazier is that the God who not only lives in the cosmos but CREATED them, the God that can’t be contained by eternity, that very God came down and became a tiny baby.

So we can hold him close to our heart.

Can you imagine how confined, uncomfortable, helpless, that might have felt? But he did it. He did it because he wants to be close to us.

He did it because when it is Christmas day and I begin to cry because my life is not what I expected or hoped it would be, he is right there holding me. He gave everything to be close to me like that. He truly is Emmanuel, the God that is with us. Even in our darkest moments.

That picture of the God who made those stars being held in the arms of human beings is truly the greatest mystery fathomable, the deepest and most profound story ever told.

As the Christmas song “O Holy Night” says he appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

When I remember this mystery, this sacrifice, no matter what my circumstances look like, my soul feel its worth.

What do you love about Christmas? What do you hate about it? What mysteries blow your mind during this season?

PS to all my Sexy Celibate readers: it has been a long time since I have put up a post . It’s not because I’ve been lazy, though! I am writing a new book on self compassion and bringing God’s  healing to the different “voices” inside of you like the orphan, the bully, and the performer. My mind has been on other things besides singleness (thankfully) and that’s why I have haven’t posted. But I’m sure you all would like to hear about other things…I will try to get some tidbits from my new book on here soon. And if any other singleness ideas come up I will get right on it! Thanks for sticking with me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Repost: Happy Wish We Were Mother’s Day

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Today I went to the gym (aka going on the elliptical and watching netflix on my phone for 45 minutes, then going in the hot tub and amazing massaging waterfalls and water slide for an hour and a half.)

The lady at the front desk said “are you a mother?” “No,” I said. “Why do you ask?” Mother’s get in free today! “Oh,” I said. I felt a pang of sadness.

She looked at me again. “Do you have pets?” I was didn’t understand why she was asking me this. “No.”

“Hmmm, ” she said. “Oh, wait a second!” I replied. ” I forgot that I live on a farm! I literally have hundreds of pets!” “Well, it looks like you’re a mother, then.” She stamped my hand and let me into the ghetto spa for free.

This little gesture meant a lot. Because in a small way she was honoring me on a day in which non-mothers do not often get honored.

First and foremost, every mother’s day, I try to not feel sorry for myself and remember my own mom. My amazing, kind, quirky mom.

Who used to feed us liver powder and v8 juice and yeast in kool aid when we were growing up because her love language is to keep us healthy.

Who has had 200 books from the library out at a time, for a six months at a time, until they made a rule up that you can’t do that, probably solely because of her.

Who looks 55 even though she is almost 70.

Who has worn spandex every day since 1982.(Because spandex are not a right. They are a privilege. My mother has had that privilege and has looked really good using it.)

That is my epic mother. And she more than deserves to be honored today. As does every mother in the world.

Every getting -three-hours-of-sleep-to-take-care-of-a newborn,changing-620 -diapers-per year, listening-to-a-million-questions, figure-out-three-freaking-meals-a-day-to-make, trying-not-to-yell-at-your-teenager, figuring-out-how-to-teach-a-human-soul-how-to-live-on-the-place-we-call-earth, incredible, selfless mother deserves to be honored today.

But once the honoring of my own mother and all the other beautiful mothers is over, my eyes inevitably look back on myself and I start getting sad.

I have always loved kids. I worked at day cares all through high school, college and after college. I work at an after school program now and live with 3 young children, all of whom I adore.

I worked at a camp for something like 5 summers, and have spoken at that camp for another 12 or so. At that camp they called me the legend. Because I was really, honestly, an awesome counselor. Every Friday we would have princess night where we would put on trash bags and talk in English accents during dinner, then we would let loose during dessert and give each other chocolate pudding facials followed by the best food fight ever. I would come up with really fun hands on devotions. I would spend one on one time with the girls, talking about their lives and praying with them. I would sing to them every night before they fell asleep. I had some of the girls for all five years, watching them grow up. We would write to each other all year, and I would sometimes visit them outside of camp.

I don’t know if I ever felt more in my element at any job. Ever. Not singing. Not writing. Not speaking. It felt like loving those campers was what I was made to do. Even now, I have dreams about camp on a regular basis. My counselor says it was because my psyche considers it home.

I would make a good mom. A really, really good mom.

But for some reason, motherhood has not been in the cards for me.

The older I get, the more I have to accept the fact that I might never become a mother. I might have to look for other ways to love children, like working with inner city kids or at an orphanage. That might be the path I have to take, one that I have seriously considered taking lately.

I have so much in my life. I have a wonderful career. I have good friends. I live with people that are very dear to me. I have lots of time to do things like get a $4.00 spa. If there were no such thing as a husband and children, I would probably be really content. But there are such things, and I have always wanted both of them. Not having them is perhaps the most difficult thing I have ever been through.

Sometimes I think about how much I would give to have someone call me “mom.” To call someone “my baby.” I would give up almost anything for this.

And so I grieve today, and maybe that is all right. Maybe it is not selfish. Maybe it is human. Maybe it is my right.

Years ago on mothers day at my church, a friend of mine stood up who has struggled with infertility her whole life. She said “mothers, you are amazing and wonderful and needed. Today, I want to honor you, but I also want to honor other women. I want to honor all the women that have had miscarriages. All the women who have been infertile. All the single women who haven’t even had a chance to get pregnant. All the women who have had stillborns.”

She had everyone in the room who fit that description stand up. I was amazed how many women stood up.

(She didn’t say this and I know this will be a controversial thing to say, but I want to include women who have had abortions. I am not saying what they did is right, by any means. But there are probably more women than you think there are in your circles and in your workplace and in your church who have had abortions and hide it because there is so much shame. They are possibly grieving today more than anyone else. We must remember them too.)

So all of you that fit into that category- this is what I say to you today. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are not forgotten. You may never bear children, but that doesn’t mean you are any less of a woman. And you are mothers in your own way-to the children in your life, to your friends, to the people you mentor.

I honor you. And so does God.

I’d love to hear from you….is mother’s day hard for you? Why are why not? What has infertility/ the death of a child/ unmarried with no children / abortion been like for you? How can the church love you better in this?

Six (Totally Lame) Reasons Why It’s Good To Be Single On Valentine’s Day (Repost)

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Hey friends! I thought I would repost this from last year because it still makes me giggle.

By the way, if you would like to try out the first few chapters of my book Cupid is a Procrastinator: Making Sense of the Unexpected Single Life for free, you can download it on noisetrade.

Click here to download the first few chapters. 

On to the post!

It’s almost Valentine’s Day—again. Reminders are everywhere: People kissing in public more often than usual. Co-workers gushing about the surprise dates their spouses are planning. Facebook is laden with people professing undying love for their new girlfriend, their husband of 20 years, or even their favorite dog. (I wonder if these people think they’re off the Valentine’s Day hook because of a post that took them 35 seconds to write.)

You are probably thinking something like, I would rather clean all the bathrooms in Grand Central Station with a toothbrush than be single on Valentine’s Day.

But wait. Let’s be optimistic and think of all the reasons it totally ROCKS TO BE SINGLE on this most cherished “lovers” holiday of the year.

Reason #1—We don’t have to celebrate what is a very, very confused holiday….

You can read the rest of this post at the really great online magazine Single Matters…

Click here to read the rest of the post.

A Love-Hate Letter to Christmas

Dear Christmas,

I am writing this letter to tell you how I feel. I have been bottling up these emotions for most of my adult life. It is time to show up and tell my truth to you.

To put it bluntly: I love you and I hate you.

The early years with you were so memorable. We would get together with my mom and make wheat-germ and whole-wheat cookies in your honor. (Just because you were in the room didn’t mean she was going to give up her health fanatic ways.)

We would go with my dad to cut trees together, a memory I still hold close to my heart now that he’s gone.
When I was a teenager, Christmas, we were so mischievous with each other. Every year I would get the big box of presents from Aunt Susan. My parents were divorced then, so it was my responsibility to wrap her presents for the family. Inevitably, Aunt Susan would give my brother Will really nice pairs of jeans, and I would get shorts sewn together to a tank top like a 90s teenage onesie. We would wrap the jeans and write on the tag that Aunt Susan gave them to me. Sometimes we’d even give the onesie to my brother. We would laugh. In fact, we were laughing all the way.

But then I started getting older. College passed, and I still didn’t have a family of my own. The gift of a family was still there, wrapped with a bow, under the tree. But I wasn’t allowed to open it yet. For years, my anticipation would grow like a child on Christmas Eve. “Maybe it will be this year!” I would think. But years passed, and that present was still there, unopened. I grew from excitement to frustration to barely even caring any more.

During that season I would go to my brother and sister-in-law’s house for Christmas since they were the closest thing I had to my own family. Will and I would put on puppet shows for my nephews and niece, complete with Latino accents, while singing No Tacos For Christmas. The kids would belly laugh for a full hour. I loved it because I loved them. But I also kind of hated it because it made me want my own kids so much.

Years passed. You sang “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” to me over and over and over again. And then you would sing it some more. On the radio, in the mall, on TV. “Please, please get a new song!” I would yell at you. It drove me crazy. That’s when I really started to hate you.
But then you would quietly sing “Silent Night” to me, candles lit, with all our friends around, and it would never get old. I would start to love you again.

Every year, I would love your season, because I had friends to be with and parties to go to and concerts to put on.

I would love thinking about the incredible miracle of the incarnation—that the God who could not be contained by eternity placed himself in a little baby so we could hold him close to our hearts.

I loved that. So much. It gave me hope. It made me realize I wasn’t alone.

And in that space, I would almost love you again. But then your actual day would come, and every single time it would make me feel so lonely. I would have to scramble to find somewhere to go. This was the day that you would remind me, more than any day of the year, that I didn’t have a husband, that I didn’t have kids. It felt like you were scoffing at me.

I would love to tell you that I have finally learned to love you. I would love to tell you that remembering Jesus is enough for me to feel peaceful again. I would love to tell you that I like fruitcake.

All those things are true and not true at the same time. For the most part, I am more peaceful than I used to be. I see that gift of a family, still wrapped under the tree, and I am not as angry that I can’t open it yet. I have even accepted that I might not ever open it. I am not happy about it, but I am seeing more and more that I can still have a beautiful life.

But then, after all that emotional work is done and all that acceptance occurs, something happens. Like when I watch the kids at my after-school program exploding with excitement and anticipation, and I wish I could have my own children doing the same thing. Like when I see a couple kiss under the mistletoe. Like when I am shuffled around to households by people whole love me, but am painfully aware that I am not in their first circle of family. I can’t help but feel like a nuisance at times.

So Christmas, I can’t tell you that I will ever come to love you. Perhaps it’s good for me to choose to love the beautiful side of you as much as possible. Perhaps I should let myself grieve the bad parts of you and not be frustrated at myself for being sad. It’s okay to love you, and it’s okay to hate you.

As Cheryl Strayed says, “Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go.

“Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”

Sincerely,

Kate

P.S. I really appreciate that you stopped singing “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” so much. I see that you have tried so hard by replacing it with the more “modern” Mariah Carey song, “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” But I have news for you: 1994 is not modern. And that song is getting almost as annoying as the other one.

The Sexy Celibate’s Top Ten Goals for 2014

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The Sexy Celibate’s 10 Goals for 2014

#10) I want to stop worshipping other people’s golden calves. Or abs. Or house. Or family.  I can’t judge how happy someone is by their smiling Facebook pictures. Many people that I think have it easy worked very hard to get there. Many people I think are happy are suffering inwardly. I am judging their insides by what I see on their outsides and that is never a wise thing to do. The less I compare, the more compassion I will have.

#9) I want to remember that happiness= reality minus expectations. Putting expectations on people often results in resentment. Putting expectations on circumstances often ends in heartbreak.

#8) I want to stay far far away from schadenfreude. No, this is not a kind of wienerschnitzel. It is a German word for the practice of finding satisfaction in someone else’s failure. Conversely, I don’t want to be unsatisfied when someone else is celebrating, like with getting married or having children. I can have compassion on myself in my disappointments without letting jealousy run my life.

#7) Taking #8 even further, I don’t want to focus too much on what I don’t have, but on the beautiful things that are right in front of me. The bible says to not to cast your pearls before swine. (Matthew 7:6). Swine don’t understand the value of pearls; they think they are no different than pebbles. I don’t want to cast my pearls before swine, but what’s more, I don’t want to be the swine that doesn’t recognize the pearls. I want to see the beautiful things that are before me and not pass them by as if they are worth nothing. My life doesn’t often look like I expected or wanted it to, but I have so many tiny, precious things in my life that I need to notice and thank God for.

#6) I want to say this prayer on a regular basis: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. I say this prayer all the time. When I have a hard situation in front of me, I ask what can I control in this situation? and then what can’t I control in this situation? Then I try to let go of the things I can’t control into God’s big, big hands. As Cheryl Strayed says “Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”

#5) I want to believe that I can choose serenity today, right now, that my happiness is not attached to some far away future thing. For some reason I am constantly grasping at the hope that something I don’t have will finally make me happy. If I only had this job or that partner or these children or that ministry I would finally have all that I want. I wait for that mysterious moment, that beautiful crux of a moment that I believe will change everything, and it never comes, even if those life events do happen. I will wait for that moment the rest of my life if I am not careful. It will keep me in a place where I am always grasping and never cherishing.

#4) I want to learn to love myself. To see myself as beautiful, even after I suffer rejection.To remember that I am the beloved. Jesus said to love my neighbor as myself, not more than myself. So learning to love myself is as important in Jesus’ eyes as loving my neighbor. Did you know that Jesus’ most repeated command was be healed which can also be translated be made whole? Loving myself  can become hard for me as a single, because I don’t often have someone telling me that I am beautiful. In fact, when I suffer romantic rejection it is really easy for me to believe that there is something wrong with me, that I am not beautiful. But I am, and I need to do the hard work of believing that I am. As Henri Nouwen says, “Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, as soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, ‘Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody. … [My dark side says,] I am no good… I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned.’ Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the Beloved. Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”

#3)Every time I have a  big decision to make, I want to ask myself What would I do if I weren’t afraid? and then do the next right thing.

#2) I want to lift my eyes up to the mountains (Psalm 121:1-2) and away from my navel.

#1)Truly, truly, with everything in me, I want to look upon,fall in love with, remember, saturate myself with, listen to, be kissed by, walk near, and be minute by minute changed by the fathomless, mysterious, passionate, astonishing, never ending lover of my soul who calls me beloved, which is indeed the core truth of my existence. Every time I gaze upon his beautiful face, a little bit of his brilliant light will seep into me and drive a little bit of the darkness away. I will see myself beautiful. I will live moment by moment. I will celebrate my life and the life of others. I will choose serenity.

Hmmmm. I guess if I practice #1 all the other stuff will happen. Maybe I should just focus on that one.

Christmas: Ruminating vs. Remembering

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I played music at two different Christmas parties this week.

The first one was called Blue Christmas. It was for people who really hate Christmas, and rightly so, as many people from this church suffer from great loneliness and even tragedy in their lives.

There were different stations for things such as thankfulness, mourning, and anger. 

The mourning station had beautiful blue bottles with water in them, which you would transfer to a large glass jug. The station was based on the wonderful verse Psalm 56:8, which says, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded them in your book.”

The jar represented the tears that God collects from us, but also represented that all of our tears are intermingled  together, that we are not alone in our sadness.

By far my favorite station was the anger station. At this station, you wrote something you were angry about on a glass ornament. Then you put on safety goggles and threw it as hard as you could at a wall.

It felt really good. Like more good than it should have felt. So good in fact that my brother and I snuck in after the service and threw all the leftovers with a glee that was more appropriate for watching It’s A Wonderful Life than angrily hurling soon to be sharp objects against a concrete wall.

A few days later I played at another concert, one that was completely opposite of the first one. I have done these concerts for years. I call them Christmas Fantasticals 

To start things out, I told the history of wassailing, which is where carols come from.

Wassailing involved poor people in the middle ages going to their mean landlord’s houses and singing Christmas songs. Next, the poor people asked for beer, cheese, and you guessed it, figgy pudding. And no I am not making that up. Then, they would nonchalantly pass a leather bag to the rich people. If the landlords didn’t put money in it, the poor people would vandalize their house.

Ah, the spirit of Christmas. Isn’t it beautiful?

Then we had Story Time With Kate in which I dressed up in a robe and slippers, called the audience my children, and read my favorite story out of a Norman Rockwell book.

We ended with toasting and singing lots of carols together.

I love these concerts more than most concerts I do all year. They make me happy. They are so ridiculously fun.

Which of these concerts do I relate to more? I ask myself. The Blue Christmas concert, where I face the  frustration and sadness of feeling alone at Christmas? The anger of losing my father and my job and some treasured relationships in the space of one year? Where I admit my deep longing for children that are laughing  and playing around a Christmas tree? (Getting a tree just for only myself feels weird.) Of hearing Rocking around the Christmas Tree 26.6 times? (The .6 comes from when I went to the karaoke guy and threatened to have him fired.)

Or do I relate more to the happy Christmas Fantasticals concert? Do I focus on  the joy of being with friends that I have loved and have loved me for years? Of lights and wonder and A Charlie Brown Christmas and people generously giving to each other? A season where even atheists sing songs about the coming of the Lord?

I think it’s both at the same time. A juxtaposition of the joy and sadness. Feelings that are so mixed together that it is hard to tell where one emotion ends and the other begins.

And Jesus meets me in both places.

Maybe it’s time for me to take a break from focusing on my feelings. I should stop ruminating and start remembering.

Here is what I need to remember: the mystery and wonder of the incarnation.

We focus so much on Jesus dying, but the incarnation is equally astounding.  The birth, the death, the resurrection, are the love story that all other stories flow from. The most beautiful story ever told.

The messiah that had been passionately longed for for generations had come. The rivers bent their knees. The angels bowed. The stars sang. The earth trembled.

What was this that was happening? all of creation wondered with awe. Could God love mankind so much that he would limit himself to the body of a human? Could he love us in our suffering in such a way that he refused to be born into a kingdom, but in a shack, only worthy of animals to live in, pointing to how much he loved the poor, the brokenhearted?

The unfathomable God who can’t be contained by the universe made himself so small that he lived in a tiny baby. Think about that. 

Most people could not even look at God and live before. Now he came down so we could hold in him our arms. Hold him close, so very close, to our hearts.

That message is beautiful. It is mysterious. It is life changing.

I wrote a song that my little three year old friend Kelty loves called Hush Child. He listens to it all the time. Every time I am over at his house his mom asks me to sing it. And every time I sing it, Kelty looks up at me and says “Auntie Kate, did you write that song for me?” And every time I say “Of course I wrote it for you Kelty. Of course I did.”

I see the babe in the manger. I look up at God and I say “God, did you do that for me? Did you make yourself so small that you could love me and meet me in my joy, meet me in my pain?” And he says “Of course I did, Katie girl. Of course I did that for you.”

When I remember that, whether I am happy or sad doesn’t seem to matter any more. What matters is that I am loved.

I am reminded of a song I wrote about this:

Sometimes in the chaos, I forget the real story

God became flesh, the infinite ultimate you found

In a tiny baby

All because of your love

All because of your love

You came down so humble so meek, that’s just how you are

The world didn’t know you, went on with their lives

On the day that you were born

All because of your love

All because of your love

Tell me the story again for the first time

The babe in a manger who’s really the savior of all mankind

Tell me the story again fort the first time

The passionate God who would live and would die

All because of your love

All because of your love for me

As you lay in that manger oh Lord did you think about me

I know that you gave up your glory became a man just

So that you could reach me

All because of your love

All because of your love

And the ones that came to worship were the poor the wretched and the lame

Funny how things never change, because we are the weak become strong

That worship you today

All because of your love

All because of your love

Tell me the story again for the first time

The babe in a manger who’s really the savior of all mankind

Tell me the story again fort the first time

The passionate God who would live and would die

All because of your love

All because of your love for me

(If you’d like to hear  this song, it’s on my Christmas EP which is called Now All Is Well. 

Valentine’s Day vs. The Single’s Lib Movement

I thought I’d repost this article from last Valentine’s Day. Hope you enjoy it!

It’s almost Valentine’s Day.  I have slowly but surely identified myself as the Sexy Celibate, much to the chagrin and constant teasing of my friends. Except I don’t really know what chagrin means.

And so, I am required to write about this holiday: the holiday in which most singles are pretty mad at the world. Here I am. Ready to write the Angry Blog Post.

Actually, because I love you all, I’m going to do more than write the Angry Blog Post.  I am going to be the instigator and leader of the Angry Singles Protest.

Today, thanks to me, a new movement has started: The Singles Lib Movement. We, the single people, are ready to wage war against the Valentine’s Day Machine. I, your fearless leader, am ready and waiting for you to come in droves to my headquarters in Boulder.

I’ve already made signs. “Singles Pride!” “Singles are people too!” and “I’m so angry, I made a sign!”

We will build bonfires and burn cheesy valentines and wedding magazines. We will march around in front of Hallmark stores, chanting “Hell no, we won’t vow!” We will write a Singles Manifesto and yell it out to all of those couples  trying to enter the store, holding hands and looking at us with dumbfounded expressions.*

(*Let me sheepishly add an important note here: we won’t be able to protest the Hallmark store on February 15th. That’s the day that all the chocolates go on sale, a day that I fondly refer to as Eat Ridiculous Amounts of Chocolate Day. It is my favorite day of the year. I wouldn’t want to ruin it by being thrown in jail.)

But on Valentine’s Day, we will PROTEST and we will PROTEST HARD!

Oh wait. I forgot one little thing. I follow the teachings of Jesus. Dang. I guess that means I’ll have to shut my headquarters and also probably my protesting, angry mouth.

I’m not saying that Jesus wouldn’t protest. In fact, he is the Great Protester. Of legalism. Of hatred. Of poverty. Of separation from God. Of bigotry, sexism, racism.  But always, always, he protests with the underlying motivation of love.

As I mentioned in another post, married people and couples aren’t the enemy. They get lonely too. Probably a lot of people around you have people to spend Valentine’s day with, but are struggling with the holiday because it can be a mirror of their unhappiness if romance is lacking. We need to remember them. Even the couples that are very happy and are flaunting their flowers and cards and expressing lots of public displays of affection aren’t the enemy.

We are all family.

I have a little secret to tell. I kind of like Valentine’s Day. Back in college I decided to make it a day of love for whoever was in front of me, whether it be God or friends or a boyfriend or people who were lonely.

There was the first year when I went to my special “me and God” places all over my city, singing a song of remembrance at each place. I tried to leave marks of remembrance.at each place as well. I really, honest to God, carved a verse in the bottom of the altar at my college chapel. It’s still there, I’ve looked. Apparently God doesn’t mind the act of defacing public property on Valentine’s Day,  because I haven’t been struck by lightening or anything.

There was the year that my friend and I  bought a huge bouquet of flowers and left a few flowers on each of the doorsteps around our dorm.

There was the year when my best single girl friends made dinner for my best single guy friends. They surprised us with flowers. We went around and told each person what we loved about them.  We also went swing dancing which was ridiculously fun.

There were the two years that some married friends invited me and my other single friend over and all their kids gave us valentines and chocolates and we watched war movies because they could potentially get our minds off of love. (Except we would inevitably follow them up with a chick flick because we liked those better.)

Then there was last year, when my  friend and I bought some flowers and gave them out to homeless people and other lonely people standing on the streets or in shops and asked them about their lives. Some of them were close to tears. Almost all of them said “this was the only valentine I got today! Thank you.”

Granted, I wasn’t quite so excited about the two years that the most serious boyfriends of my life broke up with me the week before Valentine’s Day. That was pretty horrible. But one of those years was the same year that I handed out the lonely people flowers, and that made me feel a lot better.

Granted, just like most of you, Valentine’s Day does make me aware that I am single and can make me really sad.

So maybe it’s ok to have a pity party for a while. But let’s make a pact to not let it last the whole day. Maybe we should limit it to an hour or so.  After that, I think it would be healthy  to make Valentine’s Day a practice for how we should live every day: able to get our eyes off of ourselves for a moment and think about people who are lonelier than we are. To think about the people in our lives that do love us. Jesus asks us to love, and this is a really good day to do just that.

Plus, celebrating the people we love is a really backhanded way to stick it to the big bad companies that made up Valentine’s Day so that they could get boatloads of money. And we’ll spend lots of money doing it.  That’ll show ’em!

By the end of the day, if you are still struggling with all of the reminders of how single you are,  remember, you’re only a few hours away from Eat Ridiculous Amounts of Chocolates Day.

Christmas Was Hard This Year…

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There is one Christmas gift that stands out to me more than any of the others I received as a child. It was a beautiful German wedding doll. I remember so clearly looking through the Sears Christmas catalogue and circling that doll with a red marker. Soon after, there was a rectangular shaped Christmas box wrapped under the tree.Through the next few weeks, I would look at the box, trying to decide if it was the right shape and size for my doll. I would hold it in my arms like a baby anticipating what might be inside.

Christmas Eve came, and as was our tradition, we went to the Christmas Eve service and opened presents afterwards. My anticipation had grown and grown over the weeks. For some reason, I felt so much joy when I opened that gift and saw that it was the little doll. It is my most vivid Christmas memory.

Expectation is one of the things that makes Christmas so special. Christmas is not some measly holiday like the fourth of July where you a buy a bunch of sparklers the day before. You take weeks to plan the menu, buy the presents, sing the Christmas carols, put the tree up. You can understand why children get excited. There is an expectation of something magical happening at the end of these weeks. Their wrapped presents bring even more expectation. There are gifts that are right under their noses, but they don’t know what they are. They have to wait in order to find out.

My desire for family, for children, can be seen in that little wedding doll, with her sweet little velvet dress and crowned veil. There has been a present, my most treasured present, under the Christmas tree for a very long time. A present called family.

The expectation over this present grew and grew, especially in my 20s.  But somewhere, after many years, the expectation hit a crescendo and I all but stopped hoping. That present could be empty for all I knew. That present could have the little wedding doll in it, but she might be a disappointment. Or maybe she would bring me great joy. I didn’t know, because all of these years, I was never allowed to open that present.

For some reason, thinking about that doll struck something very deep on me on Christmas this year. I cried when I held my friend’s little boy for a little bit during the Chriistmas Eve service, when he put his little head in the crevice of my neck, in that exact spot where you feel so in love with the child in your arms that your heart is about to explode.

I cried when I drove past my dad’s old house, past the lake where he used to take us iceskating, past the forest where he used to take me to cut down Christmas trees. He died only six weeks ago, and it wass so strange and heartbreaking for me to realize that he really is gone.

I cried when I took a walk through the beautiful snow covered streets of Evergreen where I grew up, missing the puppet shows with my nephews and niece that I used to have who have since moved to North Carolina. Missing the years that I spent with ex-boyfriends with big family gatherings and games and laughter. Missing the husband and children that have not yet been, that may never be. Longing for that like a little girl waking up Christmas morning and seeing that the little rectangular box is gone for some reason that she doesn’t understand.

I couldn’t cry in the house, because my sweet mother sacrificed a lot in this hard financial season to make me and my little brother a wonderful gluten and sugar free Christmas dinner. She tried so hard to make it special for us, and I didn’t want her to have any idea that I was sad. At least I had her to hold on to. Many people don’t even have one person to try to bring joy to their loved ones like the points of hope that look like Christmas lights speckled across the night sky. At least I had that.

I walked back to my house, wiped the tears from my eyes, went upstairs to the very place that I opened that little doll all those Christmases ago, and pulled out my journal. I did what I do every year; made a list of all the gifts that God had given me that year.

There were so many. New friends that had brought me so much joy. Being able to be with family when my father died. Celebrating the life of a dear friend who nearly died but was miraculously spared. This blog, my book, and all the people who have sacrificed to make my dreams happen. Many many gifts. I tried to remember all the gifts that I have been able to open this year, and stop focusing on the one that has been sitting there for so long, the one that I still haven’t been able to open.

Christmas is difficult because it is such a mirror. A mirror of your family, of your life, of all the wishes that you have that are not fulfilled.

All I can say when I write about a Christmas this difficult is that it helped me a lot to be grateful for the gifts in front of me.There will be more Christmases with more gifts to open, and we will all anticipate that coming. There is no anticipation if there is no waiting. There is no fulfillment of joy if there is no waiting. The waiting, the anticipation, is what brings the fulfillment of hope. In the meantime, all we can do is be grateful for the gifts that are in front of us now.

Anyone else have a hard Christmas? It’s okay. Tell us about it. We all need a little family this time of year.

Christmas: The Great Reminder

I thought I’d repost my Christmas blog from last year. It is bittersweet reading this now because my dad has passed away this year. Even if Christmas was difficult at times like I mention, I really wish I could still spend time with him this year. Remember this when you are with family…even when it is hard, at least they are with you breathing and alive. That is a gift.

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http://www.indiegogo.com/gettingnakedlater/x/1824239

Here is the post:

I really really want to like Christmas.

I try. I close my eyes and say “I have a good life, I have a good life, I have a good life. I like Christmas.”

But it is really really hard to be single at Christmas time. (I am so temped to make some kind of comment about being a “round young virgin.” but that is totally tasteless. And yet, I still had to sneak it in there.)

Did you know that Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of children? Of course he is. Children make Christmas come alive. And so Christmas is often a reminder that I don’t have any. Christmas, for many of us, is the Great Reminder.

For the most part, I like the season of Christmas. I know, I know, Christmas trees came from some pagan tradition and Santa Clause was an invention of controlling money hungry co-ops, but whatever. God is the father of lights. He made those trees and he inspired those lights, and they are lovely.  Santa Clause was inspired originally by Saint Nicholas, a man who took very good care of the poor. In a way,  he inspired the whole world to give gifts to each other.  And so I like the beautiful trees lining Pearl Street where I live. I like that big jolly man that makes children full of anticipation and laughter and reminds us to give to each other.

I love people walking around and singing songs outside of your door. I mean, when does that happen? I would be shocked if a group of strangers came to my door in June and started singing Barry Manilow songs. But no one is shocked this time of year. Because this is the time of year where even strangers are supposed to be kind to each other. And I love that.

And yet, I often don’t like the day of Christmas. That day is the Great Reminder more than any other day of the year.  Sometimes I don’t know where to go. I don’t have my own tree or my own presents under them, because I don’t have my own children and husband to give those presents to. I could put up a Christmas tree just for myself, but that would be pretty depressing.

I used to go to my Dad’s house for Christmas. I love my dad, I really do. But he has never really liked Christmas. At all.  I am the kind of person that always wants to make holidays special. I really, really want to feel like a family. Because they’re all I’ve got.

Now, I usually go to my brother and sister in law’s house. I am very close to them, and I love their children to pieces. So I do have that. That is more than a lot of people have.

A few years ago. my sister in law’s fire dancing troupe needed to practice on Christmas Eve. We went in the backyard with a bunch of hand drums and played the most hippie dancing Christmas carols you can imagine. (We’re all wanna be hippies.) Our very own Christmas fire dancers swung their fire balls and fire batons against the crisp night sky with snow all around us.

That was a high point.

I mean, who gets fire dancers as a Christmas tradition? I do.  In fact, if I ever do have my own family, I’m going to keep that tradition up. “Come on kids, it’s time to wave flaming sticks at each other!”

I am reminded this season that I have a lot and I have a little. If I don’t focus on the a lot, I will be overwhelmed by the little.

I don’t want to end this post with a pat formula saying “if you just remember how wonderful Jesus is, you will forget your loneliness.” That’s not true. Those feelings of loneliness are real and they are difficult. God understands how hard it is. He knows that as of now he is not with us in the flesh. He understands that in this season of remembering the ones you love, sometimes you just want someone to hold you. To actually physically hold you. You want children to open the presents you gave them.  But there is no one to hold you. There is not the laughter of children that makes Christmas come alive.

And it hurts.

But I do want to end with this thought, something I have been thinking about a lot this season.

The chorus of a song I wrote a long time ago goes like this:

“Tell me the story again for the first time

A babe in a manger, who’s really the Savior of all mankind

Tell me the story again for the first time

The passionate God who would live and would die

All because of your love for me.”

Tell me the story again for the first time: The God who could not be contained by the universe came down to be confined to a little baby so that we could hold him close to our heart.

That is more than a story. It is the deepest story. The God who spoke the stars into place lived in that baby.  And he grew up in that confined space to be near to us. He died to be near to us.

That is the most beautiful love story there is. How could it get more beautiful?

It is the story that every other story comes from.

And on Christmas day, just for a while, I want to remember that story instead of how lonely I am. I want Christmas to be the Great Reminder that despite how hard this season is for me, I live in a story that is deeper than any other story.

And I am covered by love that is greater than any other love.

Happy Desperate Day!

I’ve had three friends text me today saying that February 29, leap day, is the day in which women are traditionally allowed to ask a man to marry them.  They told me that I should consider it.

It is not very reassuring  that so many people think of me on what could be renamed as “desperate day.”

According to legend, St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick that women should have just as much right in the relationship to make the monumental matrimony decision, and so St. Patrick set aside this day for female proposals.

This is my question: why are saints talking about marriage? It sounds so very unsaint-like. Can you imagine the conversation?

Bridget says, “Hey Patty, don’t you think we girls should be able to take the reins for a while? Ask our men if we can get hitched?” (As a side note here: does anyone know why marriage proposals have so many allusions to horses?)

Patty retorts “My dear Bridget, have you forgotten? We’re both saints.  We’re not supposed to talk about this stuff. ” Batting her eyelashes, Briget says, “Come on Patty, for meeeee? ” Again, not very saintlike. Patrick says “Okay Bridget, here’s my offer: I’ll give you one day every four years where proposals are lady friendly. Take it or leave it.”

How very generous of him.

Here is another fact: leap year day was the day that women were allowed to wear breaches. So we see who was wearing the pants in the family one day out of 1,460. Us, that’s who. Take that you breach wearers!

Over the years, traditions came with leap day. If the man refused the proposal, he had to give the woman something. A kiss, a gown, or the most popular, twelve pairs of gloves.

The gloves were supposed to be put on to hide your hands so people wouldn’t notice that you didn’t have an engagement ring on. I don’t think I would even notice the absence of an engagement ring. I’d be thinking “man, that girl has freaking big hands.”

I am considering asking a few guys to marry me just because I need some new gloves. I live in Colorado, but I am too frugal to buy gloves anywhere but the dollar store. I hate having cold hands, but those leather ones are expensive. I mean, twelve pairs of gloves is a lot of gloves.

Any of you men out there want a cute little songwriting redhead to propose to you? There’s only one hitch: (again a horse reference. What is happening here?) you have to say no. And then you have to buy me lots of gloves. Any takers?

Am I going to make a spiritual parallel in this post? No, no I’m not. It is a completely shallow post, and I like it that way.

Happy desperate day, everyone!