Love Thursday

Lifted

In the depths of winter I finally learned that within me
there lay an invincible summer.
– Albert Camus

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Several years ago I read an old novel called The Circle Of The Day, by Helen Howe. Basically it describes a single day in the life of an ordinary woman, but of course this day turns out to be anything but ordinary.

In the first few pages we meet our heroine (I like that her name is Faith) as she quietly reflects on her comfortable, stable life and her relationships with the people around her. And then she learns something that changes everything about the way she sees her life and her relationships. Naturally she’s thrown completely off-balance, and struggles to come to terms with this new perception of reality. But that very effort leads her to new revelations, new realities that she has no choice but to try and get a handle on, and trying to get a handle on them leads inevitably to even more revelations. By the end of the day (which is also the end of the book) she is almost a different woman, not because her life has changed (it hasn’t, really) but because her perceptions have changed so profoundly.

Extend the concept’s timeframe and you have a perfect summary of my past year.

I’m still living in the same house, still filling my days with the same parenting and gardening and housework that I’ve always done, but everything has changed. And that didn’t –couldn’t have — happened all at once. The passing words of wisdom that shone a new light in my mind a month ago might have meant nothing to me four months ago, because I wasn’t…you know, there yet. I had to follow the path, step by step, in order to understand the vista as it unfolded.

My most recent revelation was one of those things that seems ridiculously simple and obvious in retrospect, and yet it literally took me 40 years to grasp.

And now I’m sitting here trying to figure out how to explain it, because I don’t want to say it wrong, because it’s a profoundly important concept if one hopes to live a spiritually effective life.

Okay. I’ve never been one to stick neat, confining labels onto people, and I know that sweeping generalities tend to fail when you take a closer look at things, but I have come to understand that pretty much everyone in the world falls into one of two groups: the Holder-Downers and the Lifter-Uppers.

Holder-Downers come in two basic flavors: the ones who need to see themselves as (and be recognized as) superior beings and believe that the way to do that is to crush everyone around them; and the (much rarer) ones who have knowingly embraced the dark side and simply want to spread as much darkness as possible.

Lifter-Uppers feel that the way to make the world a better place is to improve the condition of the entire human race, one person at a time if need be. They freely offer a kind word or a helping hand to almost anyone in need of one.

Here’s where it gets less simple, and this is the part that took me longest to grasp: a Lifter-Upper cannot help a Holder-Downer in any meaningful way. Holder-Downers don’t want to be lifted up. They may want to use you for whatever they can get and leave your empty shell behind, they may want to take what you have because they think that if it makes you happy then maybe it will make them happy too, they may want to actively destroy you if you appear to be standing between them and something they desire, but they have zero interest in personal redemption. You cannot help them. Move on. They’re in God’s hands, and if He wants to reach into their heart and transform them He’s fully capable of that. You are not, so don’t waste your time trying. Most of them are spiritual vampires who will drain you dry if you let them.

This is not to say that all Holder-Downers should be avoided completely. For one thing that’s not even possible: there are too many of them, they’re everywhere. For another thing, many of them have something useful to teach you about the life-destroying forces of greed, selfishness and malice. A good long look at the empty lives of spiritual futility that Holder-Downers inevitably lead can be a powerful motivator for keeping your own moral compass calibrated in the right direction.

Sometimes it takes a while to figure out which camp a person belongs to, and sometimes it only takes a conversation or two. The Holder-Downers are usually the ones telling you all about what’s wrong with you, or what they want you to think is wrong with you. The Lifter-Uppers are the ones searching out what’s best in you, your most redeeming qualities, and nourishing those.

That’s not to say there’s only room for praise in a Lifting relationship. A few weeks ago I was with a group of friends, and at one point me and a couple of the others made some humorous comments about the personality quirks of someone else we know. I don’t think we were being mean-spirited, and we certainly meant no harm, but we were in fact laughing and joking about the foibles of an absent friend.

Then another girl said very gently, “I know I’m the youngest one here, and I don’t know [that person], but they’re not here, and I think if they were here their feelings would probably be hurt.”

We all instantly felt the truth of what she’d said, and the jokes stopped. This is the kind of company I delight in now: the ones that like and accept me just as I am while inspiring me to be better. Lifters.

Happy Love Thursday, everyone. May we all do our best to be Lifter-Uppers, and not let the Holder-Downers get a toehold on our souls.

Categories: Christianity, Friends, Life, Love, Love Thursday | Leave a comment

Love Thursday: Grace

I don’t have anything very profound to say about love this morning. The truth is, today I am just a bit weary of the world in general. I’ll get over it, It’s just one of those days.

Meanwhile, Scott over at Caveat Emptor has written a poem about the same thing I was talking about a few days ago, and he says it better than I did, so I’m reposting the poem here with his permission:

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GRACE

grace
like saplings in the wind
deceptively sure in bending
so as not to break
you know, intuitively, a secret
to survival in the bendy, windy world
there is a small that is not weak
a big that is not strong
so you choose to smile
to shift
to give
to take in
what you might keep out
arriving through indirection
where you didn’t know you wanted to go
are you dancing with us,
smiling girl, smiling boy?
if every soul deserves worship
and every soul deserves praise
let us bend, like you
let us dance, with you
another answer to the question
of this world
i kiss what you are
and smile

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Happy Love Thursday, everyone. May we all find enough grace in our hearts to share with those who need it most.

Categories: Christianity, Life, Love, Love Thursday, Poetry | Leave a comment

Today I Love…

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…my fifteen-year-old handspun, handknit wool cap that never wears out and always keeps my ears toasty warm.

I’m also loving my woodstove, which has doubled as a cookstove this past week to save on propane.

blgpncks

We have to keep it blazing hot all day anyway, because the weather outside is seriously frightful. Now I can drink all the hot tea I want with no guilt about my propane bill!

We got a good soaking rain on Monday, and then an INSANE amount of snow yesterday. Seriously. Insane. It snowed from long before dawn until long after dark without any breaks.

blgsnw

Unless you count all the tree branches that broke under the strain.

blgbrkn

I’ll have to take a walk around later and assess that situation; I know at least three trees took damage, maybe more.

Right now it’s 26ºF outside and we’re effectively snowed in. And I kind of love that too: no school for the kids, nowhere I have to be until it all melts. Winter has imposed a mandatory break from the demands of civilization. Sweet.

Happy Love Thursday! May your days be merry and bright, and may all…well, you know the rest.

Categories: food, Life, Love, Love Thursday, Weather, Winter | Leave a comment

Love Is Kind

As I may have mentioned a time or two before, we dearly love Christmas around here. In this house we start listening to Christmas music during that first temperature drop of Autumn, usually sometime in October, and we begin decking the halls the day after Thanksgiving.

This year Luke and Elizabeth were too impatient to wait till morning, so we dragged the tubfuls of Christmas decorations out of the shed and into the house as soon as we all got home Thanksgiving night. The kids set right to work unpacking stuff and strewing it all over the floor and furniture. Actually arranging things in a decorative manner is my job; they just want to play with all the shinies.

On Sunday I got tired of tripping over the half-emptied tubs, so I sorted through them to see what-all could go back into the sheds until later (the tree doesn’t come in until a week before Christmas, for various reasons) and what still needed to be unpacked for immediate hall-decking.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is buying one special ornament each year to commemorate some recent event or current interest. This began twelve years ago, the first time Steve and I celebrated Christmas as husband and wife. I selected a little “wedding bells” ornament that year:

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It was nothing fancy, because we couldn’t afford anything fancy, but much like my $7 sterling-silver engagement ring I loved it for what it symbolized. Or, you know, what I thought it symbolized. Whatever.

So Sunday I was going through the tubs, and I came across a box that holds some of these commemorative ornaments. I looked inside and saw that the kids had already emptied it of its treasures.

Except for the wedding-bells ornament. They had left that tucked away inside the box, presumably so that I wouldn’t see it and be saddened by those memories.

It was a little thing, a small thoughtful gesture, nothing huge. But it touched me. It was a simple little reminder that we’re in this together and we want each other to feel loved and cared for. The whole spirit of Christmas in a minor act of kindness.

Happy Love Thursday, everyone, and happy holidays!

Categories: Christmas, Family, kids, Life, Love, Love Thursday | 2 Comments

Thankful

I can’t remember a Thanksgiving that I’ve greeted with as much joyful gratitude as I do this one.

There have been happy Thanksgivings, hopeful Thanksgivings, and always, always many things to be thankful for, but this year is so different on every level. I feel like I’ve been lifted out of a dark, tangled mire of pointless struggle and set in a warm sunshiny place where life is peaceful and beautiful and shining with happy possibilities. That heady sense of a wide-open future…how long has it been since I’ve felt real pleasure at the thought of whatever may lie ahead? I can’t even remember. I’m an optimist by nature, but it’s been a long time since life has felt like the grand adventure it should be. Now it feels that way again.

So very much to be thankful for right now. First and foremost, for God’s infinite love and grace. There were moments in the past eight months when my own reserves of strength and courage ran completely dry, and the only thing that got me through was prayer. I have felt His comfort and guidance and providence so vividly through all of this, and my gratitude is boundless.

I’m so thankful for Luke and Elizabeth. They are the cure for loneliness, the antidote to self-pity, the opposite of dreariness. They keep me from getting lost in my own head for too long, and their laughter and creativity fill our house with life and light.

I am thankful for my home. Especially in light of the current economic meltdown, with people losing their homes and their jobs and their pensions all over the place, I am so incredibly grateful to be in this place of relative security that allows me time and space to parent my children and grow healthful food and enjoy the quiet beauty of nature. This is such an enormous blessing.

I am thankful to all the people who have offered their friendship, their company, or even just an exchange of stories for the span of one conversation in a supermarket. In the first dark days of the separation my need to verbalize my pain and confusion was almost desperately compulsive, and I’m so grateful to all the kind and patient souls who understood and listened and advised and bore with me while I struggled to make sense of it all.

I’m very thankful to the people, some of whom I barely know, who have brought me firewood simply because they heard that I needed it. What an incredible feeling of being part of a caring community.

I’m thankful for the half-a-steer that came to my freezer last Sunday. And I’m thankful for this week’s rain, which makes it possible for me to continue to raise my own beef for that much longer. I could never afford to buy hay for my half of the herd; if the pasture goes my cows will have to go too. So I thank God for every drop of rain that falls.

I’m thankful for Mrs. Mouthy’s Pear & Gorgonzola Pizza recipe, which I just tried for the first time last week and it was crazy good and Elizabeth had three slices for supper and two more for breakfast and she doesn’t even normally LIKE pizza, and I think that’s the only kind I’m ever going to make again.

I’m thankful for…um…this year’s amazing bumper crop of pinecones. They’re so pretty and they make the best kindling.

I could go on, but I’ll stop now. Happy Love Thursday everyone, and Happy Thanksgiving, and may the spirit of thankfulness remain in all our hearts long after the last of the turkey and cranberries are gone.

Categories: Family, Friends, kids, Life, Love, Love Thursday, NaBloPoMo | Tags: | 3 Comments

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