Love

Connection: A Collection of Moments

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Recently I found myself in a discussion with friends where my words evoked a response that left me feeling 11 blocks from the intersection of Heard and Understood. “Meh…“, I thought, and let it go.

Yesterday while talking with a friend a red-headed man came up and randomly commented about us both being redheads. I couldn’t be bothered so I blew him off. He chided me in that he was merely socializing. Global Warming had not yet occurred in my heart so I’m sure he felt misunderstood … no matter that his drink was likely a smidge stronger than mine.

Late the other night, I visited a friend in the hospital. It was a last-minute text. The need was urgent, so I went. It was a moment to connect, to invite Heaven into her room, to comfort. Yet late at night, in a sub-zero, sterile hospital room, there is nothing that says, “Stay a while. Take off your jacket and put up your feet. How’s your family?” But because I’d chosen to be there I ignored the atmosphere and played the love card that was in my heart.

The contrast of these moments is vivid to me. And we only have moments, even soundbites by which an interaction is sealed into our minds. We can choose to connect or disconnect, and it’s often our sense of person hood that guides us. We can choose to remain emotionally available or check out. Our culture stick checks us, “They’re not worth your time, Samantha. You have other things to focus on.” But truthfully, there’s nothing that says, “I cherish human life” more than appreciating what we have with someone right in front of us. Living with our walls down makes us vul.ner.ab.le to rejection ever and anon. But no matter what my failure rate is, or how often I take a bruising for being misunderstood I want to master the art of really seeing people, and embracing their words for what they are.

β€œTo love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

 

Got to get back to running the world from my sofa …

Ciao!

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Joy in the Coming Home

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Fear in the journey,
Joy in the coming home.
A part of the heart
Gets lost in the learning
Somewhere along the road.

Along the road, your path may wander.
A pilgrim’s faith may fail.
Absence makes the heart grow stronger.
Darkness obscures the trail.

This is an excerpt from a 90’s song called, Along the Road, by Ashton, Becker and Dente.

The rural countryside was like a giant playground to my siblings, our friends and me. Together and alone we walked and rode for miles. We knew every stand of trees and every creek bed, those belonging to our own families as well as neighboring families. Big Al had a natural spring on his property. We often stopped with our bikes to splash a bit before heading home.

Late into the nights my siblings and I would play games like flashlight tag or climb in the rafters of the barns. There were so many places that we kids knew by heart. We hid behind hay bales and played with kittens there. Stacked cord wood served as a post office. We slept under the blanket of the Milky Way and awakened to June bugs crawling over our dew-covered sleeping bags.

We sat in wild blueberry patches and munched berries under the blazing sun. Our parents handed out pails and empty hats in which to collect blackberries beside the road. Adder’s tongue sprouted in the woods by the creek while snow was still on the ground. Morels were ripe for the picking after the frost was gone; Crab apples grew in the orchard and strawberries were ready for jam in late Springtime. Each was a signpost that marked time and place for kids raised on homegrown beauty and imagination.

Even when the compass points to True North, and Truth has been grafted into our hearts, even then we lose our way. We pin our expectations on people around us. We do, and then we vilify them … only to realize the failing is our own. We take risk after risk, like the pioneers we were born to be. Then we are surprised by failure as if expecting a perfect pole vault; our hopes get dashed with every setback. Yet humility, courage and a spirit of overcoming marks the life of a true pioneer.

There’s joy in the coming home.

I can never recreate what home once was but I can be at-home in my heart. I can never confidently climb into the rafters of the barn that has been gone for years. I’m grateful, though, to walk beside courageous people whose roar stretches my capacity to dream. There are people whose inner beauty pierces my heart. They challenge me to love the City more authentically and to embrace nations. To love justice and exhibit mercy.

May your dreams and endeavors reflect the true Beauty to which you are called. May your dear ones bask in your authentic love. May you radiate the King’s heart and purpose.

 

A Grace Trajectory

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Monkey bars. Do you remember them? They sort of beg you to hang upside down and look at the world from a different viewpoint, don’t they? It’s a structure so you’re either on the monkey bars or you’re not. You are either willing to climb and stretch and twirl. Or you’re not. And it’s okay, really. There’s always the teeter totter that will knock your chin into next week, if you like that sort of thing.

But, really. We’re all grown-ups here. And this is still the playground. And you can either see London, France and Stinky’s underpants, or not.

Choices.

The big decisions come as little ones. Actually. They masquerade as, “So whaddya think?” And your answer to “Whaddya think?” sets the whole trajectory of your life. Or, at the very least, it exposes what is in your heart.

As a Christian I have at my fingertips the concept of Grace. And Christians are wildly prone to apply grace to themselves but be really super stingy when it comes to other people. We just do this. I don’t know where we learned it. And I’m really grossed out by that, and apologize. Yeah.

Grace, we’ll happily recite to you is unmerited favor. Awesome. Let’s throw a few Christianese jargon-y words in there so you can’t be on the team, once again. We’re still in Junior High apparently and picking teams, and if you know the words and how to use them then you’ll be picked to be on the team. Good grief. What a recollection. I hated Junior High and being the last one to be picked. Late bloomer. Whatever. I’ll need counseling after this.

Using other words I’d say that grace is about open-heartedness. It’s about giving the benefit of the doubt without requiring a person to change, without requiring that they give me, or anyone, all the precise details about how.you.got.here. In the first place.

That’s God’s nature. Actually. If we want to connect with Him in authentic relationship, that’s really how He rolls. Is it because He’s really artistic and does the broad stroke and misses detail? No. It’s because of His Son. And love. You know, love makes us all do really crazy things. And that’s what God is like. It doesn’t really matter where you’ve been or what this is all about. It’s about relationship.

Copeland produced a song called Brightest, and the lyrics are like this:

If you find yourself here on my side of town
I’d pray that you’d come to my door
Talk to me like you don’t know what we ever fought about …

To me, that’s what love looks like. Love just can’t figure out a reason to fight anymore. Like a surfer yields to the next wave, you lean into the equity of what you have together and just drop it. You let it all go, and yield to the covenants that you share with one another, whether its a lifelong commitment between best friends, or it’s a couple, or even siblings. It’s the best picture that I have for the way Father God is with us. Instead of looking at the mess, He just nods quietly and looks over at His Son. He sent His Son for our messes. Christ died the most gruesome death. But there was a purpose, so that Father could gaze at us, eye to eye. So that we could connect with Him. Father and Son. Father and Daughter.

Watch for real Love. Wait for it. Don’t accept the counterfeit. Because real love lets you be you.

Ciao!

 

 

 

Processing Emotions with Hoover

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So I asked a few friends, who are brainy, what’s it like to feel anyway?

The cerebral types grunted at meΒ  and didn’t have time for my silly little questions. Sigh, they just ignored my survey questions handwritten on little flowery note paper … I even put curly-cues on every one. So I’m left with conjecture. I’m making this all up. If I were actually brainy, and could serve as a subject matter expert, that would have been ideal and I wouldn’t have had to send around a poll at work.

I can’t be a subject matter expert though! When I stand beside truly brilliant people, I get the giggles thinking about all that I do not know … and I hold my breath and hope they don’t ask me any questions about Goethe or, God forbid, that I tell them that Igor Stravinsky was an author. Bury me. Now. I did that. #Lastweek. But! This week I’m so smart, and I’m going to tell you about what it’s like when smart people feel emotions. Yep. You’ll be looking at samples of swamp water next.

Anyway, thinkers who skate toward the most meaning-packed moments often view emotions like giving a large cat a bath in a bathtub. If you’ve never had a large cat or a bathtub, ask your doctor if this is the right analogy for you. However, for those of us who have had said cat and said tub can tell you that prior to bath time there is that sense that all is right with your home, and your world. The only thing is that Hoover needs a bath. That’s do-able, right? Just gonna get him wet. In just a bit, he’ll be clean and fuzzy. Right.

(c) Copyright Samantha J. Penhale
My creature crashed in the sunshine
(c) Copyright Samantha J. Penhale

So you sort of plan how this is going to go, tepid to warmish water. A little bit of yummy cat shampoo. How bad can this be, right? Extra towels. Cat. “I thought I saw a Putty Tat.” You leave the water running and go find Hoover. Who plants his claws in you. Not getting in the tub. Tub. No tub. No.No.No. Bam! All the feet are spread like flying cat, tail going out the fifth way. Feline F-bombs are flying everywhere. You’re soaked, scratched. Clearly you’re not winning this one yet. You shift gears and realize that you’re in this thing until its done now, Pffft.

And so it is with emotions. It just all seems so ‘do-able’ to shed a few tears. To process this or that. Now. Like right.now. That makes sense, right? Right here at my desk … right? But then all the feelings plant their claws in you, and you are pinned. You’re stuck until you unravel, un-braid every last “She said, He said” until you’re drained. I don’t know about you but when I feel through a situation, I toss in a few extra issues: world hunger, Canada’s relationship with HRH Queen Elizabeth, the situation in Darfur, extreme weight loss … Okay, that was a lie. I have never cried about extreme weight loss. Last thought is that some emotions can completely baffle us. Love. Love completely baffles me. There’s no instruction manual for that one, can’t help you. It’s different for everyone. But that’s the point. It’s different. And that can be scary, eh? The unknown.

In spite of the wet cat planted on my chest, I have to laugh at myself, and be okay … with myself. If I was good at dealing with emotions I would rollick and roll with them, they would course through me like waves. Whether its confusion, frustration, happiness, sadness, love or anger, I would just let them run their course. But instead, kaboom! It’s time to feel an emotion. And there I am in the tub with Hoover … till it’s done.

This new bulletin has been brought to you by normal people, like you and me.

Ciao!

The Courage to Feel

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Have you ever thought about how love feels so much like grief?

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately because the symptoms are so similar … emotions careening outside the fabulous yellow lines and leading swiftly toward the guard rails. The truth is the two ends of the spectrum demand a lot from us emotionally, and we feel. We’re not permitted to leave the moment without admitting that we feel something.

And feeling something is a poignant part of life.

Different people have different impacts on us. When we find ourselves attracted to a man or a woman, it completely jams our sensors. Bright lights go off and bells sound. Of course it triggers, silly. But its more than that…

I remember ten years ago or so, I was attracted to one of the pastors of our church. A worship leader. Just a guy with a lot of charisma, and charm. Everybody adored Van. There was something about him, perhaps it was his transparency or wonderful personality but it caused the women to drop their guard and FEEL. They felt loved. They felt cared for. They learned about themselves and were drawn into a deeper relationship with the Lord. I didn’t know a single woman who, at one point wasn’t positive she was going to marry Van.

Heron Haven, OmahaBut, what’s my point?

As women we often tether ourselves to one man because he has caused us to feel. When a woman doesn’t know herself very well, or if she has some past wounds that she’s not dealt with, she suddenly feels safe as she discovers who she is, and her own inner beauty. She finds the courage to deal with her past pain and makes tremendous progress in her personal journey. But somehow that deep well of thanksgiving translates romantically to the man who helped her along that journey.

It’s wholesome and yet a tiny bit fractured.

Feeling is not optional. A full life demands that let people into our lives, to thaw, and forgive. True freedom comes when we set those men free, when we release them and move into our own emotional freedom, whether love, grief or something in between.

Be truly free to feel.

Ciao!

On Love – What It’s Really Like

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And … she speaks. Finally.

Did you ever find yourself completely outside your normal way of behaving, and have trouble finding your way back to the Central Headquarters that define *you*? I’ve been there. Sometimes a man throws us so far off the rails that we find ourselves gathering our skirts and scrambling back to that place we are comfortable. Unfuffled reathers. “You haven’t permission, Darling, to mess with our world as we know it. You, in fact, are too complicated. Not we.” As handsome and beautiful as you are, you take us so far off the grid that we desperately need to get back to zero, even alone-ness, to regain our sense that we’re going to be okay.

Yeah, there’s one or two of you out there.

I know what it is to have every interaction feel like you’re being clobbered in the solar plexus. It’s messy, caring for someone It’s certainly not as you thought it would be. It’s a bit like being in a fender bender car accident where you walk into moving traffic to collect your bumper and put it into your trunk. Or examine a headlight that got crunched because you didn’t measure spatially quite right. Smile. You know what I’m talking about. Easy Captain, don’t crush the Girls.

In fact when you speak, it’s the language of the Kingdom, the words you speak call us higher. Our parents told us about you. They told us that one day you would walk into our lives. They counseled us to wait for the one who reminded us of Home. To wait for the one who loved us so well, not saying and being the things we wanted to hear but the things that would make us become a better person. A Giant. That’s the one to marry. Be-friend and employ whomever you like, but marry the woman who reminds you of your selfless mother. The man who reminds you of your servant-hearted father.

There’s nothing wrong with needing the ministering heart of a friend, but a husband or wife comes along as a peer. They appear as one who floods Life into the picture. Fire-breathing Strength. Tenderness and transparency are to be cherished, but a good marriage is built on the bridging of two healthy people standing on their own … not to steal strength and emotional stability from us, but to give.

Lastly, there’s something to be said about one being able to feed one’s self, to eat of the meat that is Christ, and to stand. “And having done all these things, to stand…” That’s what life will demand of us as individuals in Christ, the ability to walk it out: to make a plan and stick with it. To discipline ourselves to bring about healthy change. To bear fruit that lasts. A healthy marriage will require no less.

There’s nothing more beautiful or demanding than the call to love someone. It wouldn’t be honest of me to let you walk away thinking I know what it’s all about. I don’t. But I love *you*, and that gives me an idea of what this concept of marriage might be about.

Ciao!

The Children of My Heart

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For the woman who wanted more children. The Dad who always wanted a little princess. For the unmarried woman who sees her wee ones in every child that passes.

As a write this I’m seated in a crowded restaurant and the couple next to me cuddles an adorable little girl dressed in white patterned tights and lime green corduroy dress that has delicate smocking across the front. The dress looks just like dresses I wore when I was a little girl. She’s getting ready to launch from her Daddy’s arms, flapping her wings, certain that she’s ready to fly. At the table next to them is a little boy who is trying out screaming tones for the first or second time …By jove, I think he’s got the hang of it.

This morning the Lord gave me a glimpse of the babies I’ve carried in my heart. So numerous they were! I watched as they turned somersaults and toddled around Heaven’s playground. When I asked the Lord about what I was seeing He said this …

Every time you agreed to carry something in your heart for Me, I gave birth to it in the realm of the Spirit. So many broken people have abandoned what I was birthing in their womb and while it does break My heart I have a place for these little ones.

Your heart.

Your life.

You have not known the fullness of what I’ve been doing but perhaps you’ve felt it?

While showing me these children He reminded me of all the times that I carried a dream or a prayer in my heart … a willingness to dream big dreams with a friend, or believe for healing of a friend’s illness … In Heaven’s economy we are owning another person’s pain, linking our strength with their fragile faith. It’s the heart of a parent manifesting. And Father never withholds, never ceases to reward a single glance of our eyes. Our heart expands and Father tucks another wee one under our wings.

When I mentioned that I wasn’t exactly clear on how the dots connect, He simply said, “My economy rocks My way.” And at that moment, I just saw Him as a man with His arms full of babies, rocking one with His foot and the woman in me cannot help but smile and do what I’m wired to do.

Ciao!