Laughter and Boundaries

I’m having a hard time finding joy, recently. I read a reflection today by my friend Sarah who had encountered wisdom saying that joy flows from compassion. I wonder if I am not finding enough compassion, either for myself or for others, right now. Or maybe I just see the great need for compassion and feel that the task is far too large to take on myself.

Joy is a big deal and I want to do it right.

My daughter has started a new game where she laughs and then does something that she shouldn’t do, such as hitting me in the face. I tell her no, and she does it again. Laughing again.

I love my daughter’s laugh.

I do not love being hit.

I do not want her to hit me, or learn that hitting is how we do things.

She laughs again.

I tell her not to hit. I take hold of her hand. I tell her not to hit.

I let go. She hits me again.

Still laughing.

And so I put her down out of my lap. I put space between her and me, so that she cannot reach me to hit me. She doesn’t like the space.

Nothing stops her until I do it. Saying no has not really become effective, even though she loves repeating the word.

The hitting stops.

So does the laughter.

But then she hugs me. And we are better together until she decides to try a new boundary again.

I’m wondering how she interprets the joy I share with her. Does she remember me laughing more than she remembers me teaching her a new limit?

And then, does God rejoice when I find a new game to play but is let down when I turn the game to my own destruction?

I believe God wants what is good for me, and that God wants to celebrate joy with me. I don’t believe that God is watching me to seek out an opportunity to punish me.

I am not a perfect parent. I lose my temper and get frustrated when my daughter keeps on doing what I have already asked her not to do. I have the feeling this tendency is far from over. Yay exercise of free will!

However, God is a perfect parent (among other things) and though God can and does get frustrated, God is more saddened by how I turn away from what God wants because it hurts me more than because it hurts God.

God wants what is best for me (and you) and goes out of the way to show love in whatever way possible. This is the compassion I long for in each of my relationships no matter if they are fleeting or forever.

Love Is

love is

love is letting your daughter play in the waves.

love is holding your granddaughter while your daughter watches for her favorite animal in the whole world.

love is holding a strawberry half while the other is smeared on your legs.

love is letting your daughter stay with you while her husband is away so that the one year old doesn’t wear us all out.

love is…

love is being heartbroken over the news.

love is standing with those who are hurting.

love is choosing your words wisely.

love is letting your actions speak louder than your words.

love is finding actions that can speak.

love is working to bring peace.

love is…

love is reaching out, not shutting off

love is taking risks.

love is stretching past boundaries and breaking down walls.

love is being uncomfortable

love is.

if God is love, then Love is: past, present, and future.

Love is. Love has been. Love will be.

love is stronger than I can be under my own strength.

love is hard.

love is strong.

love is tender.

love is difficult.

love is powerful.

love is.

love is all that some people have left.

love is the only thing that some people are missing.

love is bigger than any of us can imagine.

love is more intimate than anything else in the universe.

love is what we need to heal.

love is what shows us what is broken.

love is what we hunger for.

Love is.

The In Between

I’m having a hard time seeing the image of God in folks these days. Rather. I’m neglecting to look for it. I’m not really seeing many people, actually. I’m seeing tweets and Facebook updates and news headlines and an amalgamation of what serves as entertainment. These snippets of people, either the best of them or the absolute worst of them (and really, it depends who you talk to as to which is which), are not their full embodiment. There is more to the story. There is more to the narrative. There is more to us than our lies or our successes. There is everything in between.

I’m having a hard time finding the in between.

The in between isn’t very exciting. It’s the part that gets left out of the novel. The only time you see a bathroom in a movie is when the heroine is checking her pregnancy test result. There’s no suspense in vacuuming a house. Cleaning up after dinner is boring.

Even the fun stuff is mundane. I love my daughter’s giggles, but I don’t need to tell you each time she does it. I don’t want to tell you about every time my husband and I have a conversation after which one of us needs to apologize for a hasty word. (usually I need to apologize.)

But it is the in between parts that make us human. I’m not seeing many people in their humanity these days. I also do not feel seen in my own humanity. I don’t participate in a community in which I can be wholly myself, and so I feel pieced together. not whole. Scattered among my various support networks, are pieces of me, parts where I celebrate and exult. but not all of me. Not all at once.

And sure, some of this is because I am finding a new reality in staying at home and taking on the mantle of full-time motherhood. Some of it is because I have been working over the last eight years for the church and towards the church and now I’ve reached a place of not yet. Some of it is utter disgust at the current political climate and the ease at which I can say that those who support the candidate I don’t like are wrong on all points. More than a little bit of it is exactly that.

But I’m worried that I am not seeing the whole person behind someone’s statement. A person, with all their history and narrative and emotions and struggles and difficulties cannot be distilled down into a headline or a tweet.

I need reminders to look for the humanity of those around me. I need reminders to look for the image of God. I know it’s there. Sometimes I refuse to see it because it makes my life easier. But easy is not always holy.

Need Joy?

“Anyone getting another cup of coffee?”

“Well, I’ve already had two, so I don’t need it.”

“Ok, just make eight cups.”

“But. … Well… I might want another…”

“Better make it ten.”

“Kathy had filter through her thoughts to discern the difference between want and need.”

 

That was the scene yesterday morning. Did I need another cup of coffee? Well… not so much. But did I want it? It turns out, yes. Yes indeed. It was a good call.

Most decisions that I make are based on want. I have generally all the material things that I need. But surely I want much more. I could write about minimalism and the benefits of an uncluttered life… but I wrote this on my birthday. And so I got things that I am happy about. I may not have necessarily needed any of them. But, now that I have them, they each have something that brings me joy.

Joy now. Joy is something that I always need.

When Joy is in spare supply, life is dreary. Simple and mundane tasks become onerous chores. The To-Do list never slims down. Conversations are short and patience is shorter. I’m weary when my joy is limited.

But when Joy is abundant, everything changes. Energy blossoms. Creativity blooms. Tasks are conquerable. Complex work is accomplished. And I have energy to spare.

I can’t really schedule it, when Joy is overflowing or when it is sparing. But there are things I can do, I can place in my life that bring me joy. For instance, I love wearing scarves, and so when I pick one out, I am thinking about where it came from, conversations that I have had because of them, and ways that I have been changed because of them. They are simple pieces of cloth. I don’t really need them most of the time unless it is winter. But they bring me joy.

I look for other things like my scarves to bring me joy when I need it. When I have joy, I need to share it with others, and it grows. Thank you for making my life more filled with joy.

Building Family

In about a month, my family is going to go through some significant changes. We are moving to a new place, both my husband and I are getting new jobs, and we are welcoming a baby into our lives. Any one of these things would not be a small thing. Together, they are going to be huge. We are grateful that we are allowed time and space to live into the new identity of parents before we both jump into our new ministries feet first. Not many folks who have so many life changes at once have the kind of support that we have. I am amazed at the number of women and men who have to choose between keeping a job and spending the first few weeks of a newborns life caring for the child. I’m glad the United Methodist church has provisions for leave for new parents. It’s probably not enough, but is much more than what most workers in the States have access to.

Not only are our new churches providing space for grace for us in our transition, our own families are anticipating the new changes and providing good help to us. My parents have come to help pack our house, my in-laws are helping to make sure we have everything we need, and my sister is helping to make sure we all get to the house in one piece (and that I eat like I should). And there will be much more good help from them once our daughter makes her appearance as well.

I really don’t know what I would do without them. We would manage, of course. But my husband and I would be under a considerably larger amount of stress, probably take it out on each other, and our relationship would suffer. That’s why we need support. Because we rely on our relationships with others to build and maintain our own relationship. We are stronger when we work together. We are healthier when we allow others to participate in our lives, choosing not to do things all on our own. And in the midst of it, we have folks who can call us out on our mistakes, our quirks, and our shortsightedness.

I wouldn’t trade my family for any other. We are far from perfect. We have our failings and blind spots and times when we don’t get along. But when it really counts, when I desperately need someone to come and help me, that’s when our love shines through the brightest. We work together to build each other up. We become a new creation in the process.