Friday, October 25, 2013

Love is.....

 Note to readers: I don't know how often I will write but I've been feeling the need to write and get my thoughts onto paper - real paper and the digital kind.  So, read, share, agree, disagree as you will but I will likely continue writing and yet I don't know how regularly I will post.
  Several months ago I was asked to give a talk in church on love.  It was a topic I had and continue to think about because it is so important in this life.  Here is my resulting talk.  I hope you enjoy it.  Feel free to leave your thoughts, although I do appreciate respectful comments pro or con.  Many thanks for reading.
   What do sunrises, kissing, the laughter of children, holding hands, ice cream, and the Red Sox all have in common?  People say that they love seeing, doing, hearing, feeling, eating and watching them!  The word LOVE in the English language can mean so many things.  We describe our feelings for our parents, our jobs, a boyfriend or girlfriend and a sports team with the same word – but does it mean the same thing? (for Red Sox fans…. It just might…..)? 
            I want to touch on several aspects of LOVE: romantic love, love of neighbor, and love of God.
            I’ll talk about romantic love first because it’s tricky and conditional.  Romantic love is an A-mazing feeling, right?!  Who doesn’t love the tingling stomach, the weak in the knees feeling for that gorgeous someone!? It’s essential in marriage and important in dating – important to recognize that you feel it for someone.  However – and this is a BIG however – it shouldn’t be fully employed until marriage.  Period.  Try building a house with only nails – literally nails.  And only nails.  It would be one ugly and useless house.  That would be like trying to build a relationship out of romantic love alone.  It won’t last and it’s not useful or fulfilling in the long run.  Don’t get me wrong – to make a marriage work you need mutual romantic love – but you must have more.
            The more is what I want to cover in the rest of my talk.  The more are the other parts of love – love of neighbor and love of God.  In the Old testament the Lord instructed the Israelites to “love thy neighbor as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18) and “love the lord thy God with all they heart” (Deuteronomy 6:5).  He reiterated their importance when he fulfilled the Mosaic law but still held those two teachings as the most important commandments of all. 
            Loving our neighbor and loving God is what makes up most of our waking hours.  Every interaction we have – including with ourselves - is done with some form of love or non-love.  There is no neutral in this.  “Karen,” you may say “that is ridiculous.  How do I show love with strangers or irritating co-workers, or even myself.” Here is how: every waking moment we choose.  We choose how and why to act, speak or think a certain way.  Will we do it from a basis of love or from some other motive?  According to Heavenly Father love should be the basis of our actions towards everyone.  Think of that, will you.  How would our lives change if everything we did was based on demonstrating sincere love for another and for God.  Not fear of failure, not self-interest, not fatigue, not retribution, not disinterest but real love for someone else. 
            Sometimes I think we are afraid to say “I love you”.  Why?  What is wrong with telling someone you want them to be happy.  Isn’t that what love is – a way of saying to someone “I want you to be happy and I will do what I am able to do to help you be happy”.  Perhaps a way to make that phrase more palatable is to recognize the other names we give to love: friendship, service, charity, kindness, joy, patience, hope, endurance, stillness, beauty, effort, sacrifice, and many others.
            Elder Marvin J. Ashton in his October 1975 General Conference talk entitled “Love Takes Time” shared this about love of neighbor and of God, “We must at regular and appropriate intervals speak and reassure others of our love and the long time it takes to prove it by our actions. Real love does take time. The Great Shepherd had the same thoughts in mind when he taught, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15; italics added) and “If ye love me feed my sheep” (John 21:16; italics added). Love demands action if it is to be continuing. Love is a process. Love is not a declaration. Love is not an announcement. Love is not a passing fancy. Love is not an expediency. Love is not a convenience. “If ye love me, keep my commandments” and “If ye love me feed my sheep” are God-given proclamations that should remind us we can often best show our love through the processes of feeding and keeping.
            “Undoubtedly our Heavenly Father tires of expressions of love in words only. He has made it clear through his prophets and his word that his ways are ways of commitment, and not conversation. He prefers performance over lip service. We show our true love for him in proportion to our keeping his words and the processes of feeding.”
            Several weeks ago when I began preparing for this talk I made a list of things that in my mind illustrate love either from God or from people to each other.  Here they are:           
·      Love is the sweet peace that comes when you have repented and you feel that God has forgiven you.
·      Love is a gentle kiss.
·      It is laughter before bedtime.
·      Love is tickling a baby to see her smile or hear him giggle.
·      It is a sunrise.
·      It is a smile between two friends.
·      Love is forgiveness to one who has hurt or offended you.
·      It is looking for reasons to talk, text or call someone.
·      Love is seeking ways to make another happy.
·      Love is friends.
·      It is caring more about another’s feelings and needs than your own.
·      It is recognizing that the more you give of it – the more you receive in return.
·      Love does not put self-interest first.
·      Love is sunshine.
·      Love is a choice that must be made daily, hourly, and sometimes in every moment.
·      It is like faith in that it must be nourished or it will dwindle and die.
·      Love is strong – when cultivated and strengthened it will never break.
·      Love and faith are the building blocks of God, true religion and believers – without both God could not be.
·      Love is why we believe in Christ.
·      It is why the earth is beautiful.
·      Love is a commandment.
·      Love is why we are on the earth.
·      It is why we have the Atonement.
·      Love is the greatest treasure.
·      Love is sweeter than sugar, softer than down, and stronger than any building material.
·      It is as necessary for growth and progression as oxygen is for life.
·      Love is not terrifying – the thought of losing it is what terrifies and stops us from seeking and giving love to others.
·      Love can be painful but pain helps us know we love.
·      Love will not fade with time – it grows stronger, deeper, richer, sweeter and better with time and effort.
·      It is working to communicate every day.
·      Love is not giving up.
·      Love is not effortless.
·      Love is not easy.
·      Love comes in levels.
·      Love is commitment.

            In closing, I’d like to tell you from my personal experience of being divorced to not let fear of rejection or divorce stop you from trying, getting up, dusting yourself off and trying again.  Divorce does not mean you are a failure.  Nor does breaking up.  The true failure comes in giving up or not trying in the first place.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Part of My Heart....

A week ago in church my bishop (similar to a minister or preacher) spoke.  It was his last Sunday as our bishop as he was asked to serve in a different church position (in my church we have a lay or unpaid ministry - people serve voluntarily in many different positions over their lifetimes).  He wanted to leave us with some words of wisdom - to share a few of the things that are most important to him.  I will preface this retelling by saying my congregation is made up exclusively by single adults and we attend this congregation by choice for many different reasons including the hope of finding a spouse, making friends and/or joining with others who have a similar life situation.  His words were so touching to me that I wanted to share them with others along with some of my own thoughts.

He spoke on two main topics (or at least this is what stood out to me): choice and marriage.  In the most straightforward of ways he said, "You choose who you want to be.  You choose your life.  Be the person you want to be.  No one, no thing, and no situation determines your life and your choices.  You choose who you want to be.
  "You choose who you want to love and who you want to be with.  People wonder how in a dating situation, one person can feel they've received an answer from God saying, 'Yes! This is the right person to marry!' while the other party in the relationship feels they have received just the opposite direction from God, 'No! This is not the person to marry.'  Will God tell people opposite things?  No.  The simple truth is we interpret what God tells us and we make a choice and then look for reasons or signs to support our choice."

His words gave me pause and I reflected on my own relationships.  How have I interpreted God's messages to me?  When another person is involved you sometimes have to live by their choices regardless of how you feel moved to act.  The difficult part is learning how to live joyfully and to continue in faith when things don't work out as you hoped, thought, planned and prayed.

On the subject of marriage he said, "I have been married 36 years.  If you would have asked me 36 years ago if I would help you quilt or would be interested in attending a quilt show I would have told you no, emphatically.  Quilting wasn't even listed on my top 100 things I'd want to do.  Yet, today, I have crossed the country and spent hours at quilting shops and shows.  I've walked up to quilting displays and said, 'My, look how those points match up.  They're almost as good as mine!' Why?  I have learned to love quilting because the person I love loves to quilt.  There is no better place to learn how to be selfless and to learn about selflessness than in marriage."

Several years ago, in a combined men and women's church meeting we were discussing marriage.  At that time I had been divorced for maybe 2 years.  I raised my hand to share some thoughts on the subject from my own viewpoint.  I felt the spirit of God confirming the words I shared and had many people - from the congregation and from the local and stake leadership - approach me and thank me for my comments.  I share that with you not in hopes of sounding oh so special and spiritual but because I have felt from the moment I got married, through my divorce and up to this very day how important, beautiful, and sacred is marriage.  As a child I remember making everything into a family, I would fashion a family out of clay - a mom, dad, and kids.  Even the dinner table was not spared as the knife was the dad, the spoon was mom, and the fork was a child.  Everything represented family to me.  And, still does.  I get so excited when I see two people dating - and I hope and pray for the success of their dating.  I mourn for the divorces of friends and strangers. 

My biggest fear was that I would get divorced.  Well, I have lived through and survived my biggest fear.  And it was brutal.  The one thing I had always wanted - hoped and prayed for - a best friend to marry and with whom I could create a family - slipped away.  And though I was devastated I never lost my firm unwavering belief in the truthfulness and beauty and sacredness of marriage.

Here are my own thoughts on choice and marriage:

I heard the story of a group of 19-21 year old missionaries who were traveling in a car with an apostle of the Lord.  They thought to pick his brain and get some advice on how to find a spouse when they returned from their missions.  Upon asking the apostle how they would know when they found "the right one", he said, "You will find your answer in Doctrine & Covenants 88:40."  The missionaries quickly looked up the scripture, which says:  For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth widom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgement goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things.
The apostle explained how the scripture would help the missionaries to find a spouse by saying, "You will attract who you are.  If you wish to marry someone intelligent - become intelligent.  If you wish to marry someone truthful or wise then become those things.  Become the person you wish to marry for that is who you will attract."

Marriage can be so sweet.  There is nothing quite like locking the door at night knowing you are at home with the person you love more than anyone else in the world.  Laughing at inside jokes, notes left on dressers or washing machines expressing sentimental trivialities or love.  Holding hands while watching television.  Goofy date nights.  It is learning how to make room for two lives where before there was just one. It is creating memories for future retelling and reliving.  It is finding the best in the other person and trusting that they are finding the best in you.  It is believing in someone's true potential while enjoying who they are at that moment.  Marriage is all about choice.  It is choosing to be with someone and then making that same choice each an every moment of every day for the rest of your life.  That sounds daunting and if we focus on the difficulty we lose out on the miracle of putting someone else first and realizing that in doing that we have actually made our own lives happier, better, and more enjoyable.  Marriage is hard work.  It is tears, it is aching hearts, it is struggle, it is sacrifice, it is giving up what we thought we wanted for what God wants for us.  It is realizing that what God wants for us is really what we wanted all along.  

I want to marry again.  I am not ashamed to say that and to work for it and hope for it and pray for it.  There is no fear great enough to persuade me to give up that hope.  I am grateful to a wise Father in Heaven who somehow helped me to see and feel this truth even when my own marriage died.  It is worth the struggle and sacrifice.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Take a chance......

On Saturday night I had dinner with a small group of friends - or soon to be friend in the case of one of the individuals.  After a conversation about the good and the bad of having expectations towards others he suggested I watch a TED talk video by Brene Brown called The Power of Vulnerability.
Tonight I watched the video.  It was eye opening, perhaps because I could see the truth of her words in my own life.  She posits that vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, happiness, and all good things.  She also says, that to avoid being vulnerable we numb ourselves to the pain.  The only problem is when we numb the pain we also numb the joy.  Watch the video and tell me what you think!  Is it true in your life??

Sunday, September 23, 2012

and to be a friend.... Part 1.

Happy Gorgeous Fall Day!!!

I have some thoughts I wanted to write down and share.

Last Sunday I was waiting outside my bishop's office (a bishop is similar to a pastor or a priest)
for a quick meeting.  While I was waiting I was chatting with some fellow ward members 
(a ward means the same as congregation).

I asked the question, "Hey how do people make friends?  I think I've forgotten how."

After a little bit of laughter one guy asked, "What do you mean you've forgotten!?"

"Well" I said, "If I'm going to be completely honest, I think that I've spent so much time thinking about dating and getting married and making sure I'm doing everything I think I'm supposed to do that I've forgotten how to just be friends with someone."

There was a split second when I worried that I had divulged my weakness to an unforgiving audience
and then one of my male friends spoke up, "I completely understand what you mean.  Guys are under a lot of pressure.  There's a lot of feeling guilty.  We know we should be dating and getting married but how do we get to know the girls?  The only time we have is on Sundays for three hours at church and then maybe at a few other activities scattered here and there.  So the pressure is on at church to make a good impression, but then you worry that you are not being your true self.  And everyone is in the same boat.  We are all trying to find someone but the stress is huge and becoming friends seems to fall by the wayside." 

It was very interesting to hear this from him.  From the outside he is a guy that has everything going for him.  He seems very self assured without being arrogant.  He could have his pick of amazing women as he is a truly amazing man.  And yet, to hear that he (and other men from his explanation) feel just as stressed out, scared and frustrated as my female friends and I do was interesting and alarming.  

How do men and women expect to get to know each other authentically 
when both sides are laden with stress, guilt and fear?