Present to Love

Love seems to have kissed you good bye this season. You know,” that” kind of love. Those broken dreams, crushed hopes, best of intentions. All gone by the wayside… Barbara Streisand sings that nothing is wasted.  Really?

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When the relationship is gone and the best you can do is hold in the anger and the tongue, when forgiveness seems an impossible, unobtainable goal, and the bridges are irreparable, where do we find love?

Worse than not being loved by the person who has gone, is the self condemnation you feel when in the depths: the deep valley of the soul. Not loved, not worthy of being loved… Our worst moments chant this litany. Can we love others when we do not love ourselves?

Love is our biggest human need. The absence is painful. This season look around you for the love you do have in your life, look for ways to express your belief in love, discover ways to encourage your heart to believe you are deeply loved and cherished. Stop demanding perfection in your own life. Stop judging yourself for all your failures. Try some self acceptance on. Let go expectations of yourself and other people. Let people just be who they are this season. Don’t let yourself confuse sex for love. Love yourself more. And hang on to hope for a new chapter of love in your life.

Love, like peace, is more than the absence of war. Just look for it. Count the ways you are loved this season and find comfort for the bleak and weary soul. There are family members who love you, friends who care, your children.  Perhaps the list feels miniscule or even empty. There is no such thing as completely unlovable. Where we can grow is in loving and forgiving ourselves and those around us. Forgiveness, the act of letting go, frees us to receive love.

I Corinthians 13 says love is patient and kind; does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong doing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

What is the face of unconditional love: the face of God perhaps? How do we as finite human beings ever experience or produce or measure up to such a pure, giving, sacrificial, tender love as the giving up of a beloved son? Not a doormat love in any way. But a love that is all in.

Instead of comparing ourselves to that kind of love can we take in that kind of love for ourselves this season? Be committed to our own growth as humans, loving the people in our lives the way they really need to be loved, not for me but for them?

Remember, love never ends…

To think on:

What are the expectations I’ve had that have stopped love?

Where can I experience more forgiveness in my heart this season?

How can I express love to the people around me this season in ways that are meaningful to them?

Contributing writer: Beverly van Diepen

In Spite Of This, JOY.

Think back to the most joyful time of your life. When did it occur? How old were you? Who else was part of your joyful moment? I have a memory of being in elementary school. It was summer and on this day I was free to play. I lay on my back in the grassy field looking up into the cloud filled sky. Freedom chased joy into my heart. After the exhausting birth of my first son I saw his perfect, beautiful, red face. Joy burst within me.

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Most of us have very rare but significant moments of joy in our lives because joy is something very deep, intense and fleeting. It is often completely unrelated to success, privilege, status, or any of the things we humans most commonly try to attain.

Joy is not something we can engineer or create. It is something from somewhere else that sneaks up on us. C.S. Lewis entitled his book “Surprised by Joy” and wrote about the joy he experienced in the presence of the Saviour we celebrate at this time of year. Surprise encapsulates how we experience joy. Suddenly, there it is…

There seems to be a common experience of joy. It is extreme happiness: but deeper; joy is enthusiasm: but even more intense, its delight, elation, and even ecstasy. The question is: can we cultivate joy this season like we can cultivate peaceful moments, or an attitude of hope?

This has been a long year for some, with this Christmas being the first in a new lifestyle foisted on them. The frustration, difficulties of this new life, the anger that has emerged, change, sadness for self and your child or children, all these overwhelm any hope of peace or joy. Or do they?

You can’t manufacture it. You can’t “should” yourself into this, but can you be open for it? As you cultivate an attitude of hope and moments of peace, be open to be surprised by flickers of joy. Be aware and pay attention. You never know when one will hit. Perhaps in the quietness of the night, in a reverential moment, the tenderness of the

dawn, the laughter of your children, or a hug from someone you love. Wait for it. Let yourself be surprised this season, in spite of yourself.

To ponder:

What have been some joyful moments in your life?

As you remember those moments think of the details: where were you, who were the people with you, if any, and what happened to precipitate that joyful moment?

Think about the kind of person you were being in those moments. Can you recapture that way of being?

Contributing writer: Beverly van Diepen