Valentine

If you’re walking in love, you don’t have to fear never finding it.

Image

You can’t rush it

Or fall into it.

You must become fertile—tenderhearted,

So that when the seeds are

sown,

naturally,

they will grow into

life giving substance & reproduce.

Who are your farmers?

Who is your sun, your rain?

Until you find who provides you stable growing conditions,

You must not settle.

Don’t be so anxious for the seed when you are still cracked dry.

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Naivety

 

 

 

 

 

We rolled the dice, assuming

they would match.

 

Moving hands

of clocks and heirloom watches,

implications of forever.

Grandmother’s  china

once adorning family tables, betrothed to this sturdy structure,

a product of long-term teamwork, adventures,

promises.

 

Tons of hard work and pride, placed

on this Atlantic body,

that we had never fully known in the first place.

 

We cruise

until, several hundred miles out,

the tip of the iceberg makes my mind suspicious

 

yet we remain optimistic.

There was no other way.

 

Then we hit.

 

The whole ship

sunk into an abyss,

never to be replicated,

 

preserving only symbols of time and security,

things we valued that

turned out not to matter.

 

Hard work that did not pay off after all.

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The weight of Infatuation

Our heart is a stack of bricks, we hand back and forth,

a pulsing, unintentional rhythm, paced to build

a cozy home, or a retaining wall.

*

Face to face, we sit, clutching

generic porcelain mugs,

marking our bodies like price tags.

*

We share a triangle pastry

blotched in red corn syrup

which we agree is fruit.

To love God is to love each other, you say,

ripping a piece to save.

I bite in a corner to taste,

Loving each other means loving God?

*

We leave, satisfied by starch,

thoughtless about the crumb trail we leave behind.

*

Fasten seatbelts, prepare

for separate houses.

Busy crossroads tiring rubber, friction. Yellow,

again.

*

Is it time or intention that makes green? Design?

*

Staring at the stop sign, shift

in your passenger seat, feel

yourself stick, suspended

by his sedan.

Night after night

*

Orion’s belt

suspends

stiff yellow bodies

*

holding the heat of space.

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Disconnection

The way a dandelion appears to die,

then releases a seed

to float and begin again.

*

How skin, so soft,

steers us to bondage,

the confines of our own curiosity

and separateness.

*

How we walk along,

loved by everything divine,

oblivious.

*

How we handle such cycles

without wearing thin.

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Let Ride

Stones

*****

We are souls, poured,

then frozen into the cracks

of coffee shops,

Chiseled free through our scribblings,

  thin and cracking confessions.

*

The girl in the tight, window-case dress

speaks above the folk-style band,

into her cell,

I’m at Kristen’s bad party,

while I listen, content in my jeans by the fire.

*

Public radio taught me that

trash, once alienated

from recyclables , collides

in a shared space,

for all things used,

*

despite our discernment.

*

Our theory of decay translates into

a lengthy process, a journey.

After twenty-five years,

plastic still protects guacamole,

 next to legible newspaper that your grandfather recycled,

cigarette burn still distinct.

*

Our  inheritance.

*

Yet water still filters itself through rocks and hills,

it moves and purifies.

*

Do washed-up shells with hollow sound

and scattered shine, gain value

only in your palm,

or upon your toilet tank?

*

From the shoreline where we dabble and yearn,

choose to skip me,

*

in this body of mystery.

Return me to where I belong,

a pebble,

beneath waves

and stars.

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Attracting the right person

This post is how to avoid frustrating situations in relationships in the first place. I want all my family and friends to have healthy relationships, because relationships do define who you are and will become.

Keep reading if you feel like you don’t attract the right kinds of people, or if the people you are attracted to, aren’t attracted to you back. Keep reading if you feel helpless to move things forward in your relationship. Keep reading if you’ve been in a series of “serious relationships” for a looong time. Keep reading if you suspect you have unhealthy dating relationships. Keep reading if you ever want to marry or improve your marriage.

Glad I kept your attention.

What I’m about to share (all tips and advice) are excerpts or paraphrasing from an excellent book, “How to Find a Date Worth Keeping” by Dr. Henry Cloud.

Seriously, read it.

First, let’s diagnose. See if you have experienced these unhealthy dating patterns:

1) You feel a strong attraction to someone and give up everything to pursue him instead of staying connected to the rest of your life.

2) When you like someone, you slowly avoid speaking your mind or asserting yourself. You adapt to whatever she wants.

3) You feel attracted to someone and instead of actively pursuing him, you lose your initiative. You are too shy, and you pull back instead of actively being yourself “toward” them.

4) You find someone you like, but if there is one slight feeling of rejection, such as if she has other plans or one date doesn’t go well, you disappear.

5) You start dating someone you like, but the more you go out with him and get close, the more you find little things “wrong” with him. You use those things as an excuse to blow him off.

6) You begin dating someone and give up too many boundaries too quickly.

7) You like someone a lot until he likes you, and then for some reason, he is not attractive anymore.

8) You fall for someone until she protests some things and then you see her as a nag, and you look for someone who is “easier.”

9) You go out a few times and worry that this looks too “serious,” so you move away. You feel too responsible for the other person. You feel as though it’s not okay to date without a commitment, so you keep your distance or bail out too soon.

10) You see many reasons why someone is not “right for you” until she moves away, then she looks wonderful.

11) You stay in a relationship that is not a relationship, but it’s comfortable for both of you. You know it’s not what you want, but it’s “something to do” instead of being alone. You’re stuck in a pseudo-friend-pseudo-dating relationship.

12) You are attracted to an “unattainable.” She may be unattainable because of age, location, social barriers, or some other reason, but you are only able to love what you can’t have.

13) You find one person you like and give up dating others, going from one to another, instead of dating a lot of people at once. So, over time, you date very few people. Your numbers are “low.”

14) When the person you are dating shows character flaws that should signal you to move on, you interpret those signals as something wrong with you. You try to please that person into loving you. For example, she is emotionally detached, or not responsive, and you try to please her to get her to love you.

The trick is to recognize these unhealthy patterns in relationships and stop them. This means establishing good boundaries.

Boundaries create autonomy, which create freedom. It’s the “hard to get” independent person, who is so alluring. People value those who respect themselves. Boundaries do a better job creating healthy space than games and manipulation. People without good boundaries attract someone who is controlling or abusive and become subtle controllers themselves, often in dependent and smothering ways.

To establish good boundaries, you need to practice good relationship skills and you need to own who you are.

Good relationship skills to practice:

-Gain awareness of what you like and don’t like, what you want and don’t want.

-Define who you are and who you are not.

-Develop your “no” muscle.

-Stop blaming others.

-Stop playing the victim.

-Persevere and develop self-discipline.

-Become proactive, not reactive.

-Set limits

-Choose and enforce your values.

-Accept others’ choices and don’t control them.

-Realize your separateness and independence from others.

-Be honest, clear, and direct.

-Challenge distorted thinking.

-Practice self-control with help from others.

If you feel you have good relationship skills, but are still attracting the wrong type of person, or are not the person you want to be, you may have a “split” perception of who you are, or trouble learning from past relationships to prevent problems in future relationships.

A split is not finding the balance between the extremes in your life. Consider how you are a person containing opposites:

  • Your confidence and your insecurities
  • Your victories and defeats
  • Your independence and feelings of dependence
  • Your “holiness” and your sin
  • Your connected parts and your loneliness
  • Your ability to dress up and look good and your casual side.
  • Your sexuality and your values
  • Your talents and your inabilities
  • Your happiness and your struggles
  • Your successes and your failures
  • Your strengths and your weaknesses

If you attract overly confident people, you may be too insecure. If you attract submissive people, you may be controlling. To whatever extent you can’t balance the two extremes in yourself, you will attract someone to balance you out, and it may be the “wrong” person for you. Seek health. If you are a whole person, you’ll attract whole people.

When attracting the wrong type of person, if you feel you are honest and balanced in your identity, you may have these unhealthy patterns to deal with:

  • Inability to judge: Use your head and your values, in addition to your heart. Get your head and heart on the same page: date a person for his or her character, not just because you feel attracted to him or her.
  • Isolation and fear of abandonment: choosing dates from a lonely place inside draws you to people who can’t connect, or makes you so desperate that you’ll have anyone who will have you, no matter what they are like. Get connected with good friends outside of dating so you’re not dating from loneliness.
  • Defensive hope: You may have been hurt or let down by a certain type of person in your life (often a parent), and you are still hoping to get that person to change, and to love you. So you are drawn to people like him or her so that you can finally heal that relationship. The sad thing is, these people are also drawn to you, because your dynamics work with their dysfunction, similar to the parent or significant other who taught you to play the game. Resolve your old business through forgiveness and grief, letting go of what you can never have from that kind of person who hurt you. Get what you need from good people in non-dating, healing relationships so that you don’t have to defend against the loss anymore.
  • Unfaced badness: If you have not faced your “bad parts” and feel you have to be “all good,” you might be drawn to the “bad boy” or “bad girl” type to express those parts for you. Not facing your badness keeps you from owning it, with the resulting guilt and fear. Accept your bad parts, get forgiven, and be real.

For more unhealthy patterns, wait for part 2 (next post) or better yet, turn to page 184 in “How to Find a Date Worth Keeping” by Dr. Henry Cloud. I also hope to touch on things to consider once you desire to involve your heart or consider marriage in a dating relationship.

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Even healthy relationships can be fragile.

Even good relationships can be fragile,

fragile as ice.

It’s easy to skate along in the winter.  Then, at the change of season, just as you feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, and enjoy the rubber-band snaps of ice in the distance breaking the cold, stagnant air  that had been drying your flesh, it is possible to slip through a crack.

Splash!

Sharp numbness and gasping for air. Complete shock.

it’s a must, to crawl out, as soon as possible. How long can one stay in? Is it a decision, or a matter of strength? Either way, one must get out, avoid the freezing of blood pumping organs, crawl to shore and kiss the foundation—the ground that allowed this icy lake to exist in the first place.

How natural, is the passive-aggressive nature of skating.

I thought I had the memory capacity of a honey bee. “Forgive and forget.” Bah. “So easy,” I thought. I honestly don’t remember things I’ve forgiven, because I forgot them.   I chalked it off as Christianity. Others chalked it off as selective memory.

This is the cycle of my life, and what I recently recognized as my skating routine. Do I really forgive? Or do I “forget”—meaning “skate” over a problem? I can forgive and forget– unless there’s that shock factor. Splash! Didn’t see it coming! I can’t stand icy water—feelings of anger and betrayal. It’s common sense to me, to jump out, warm up– common sense to guard that blood-pumping organ at the center, my heart. To pry the icy fingers of anger off, as soon as possible. Breathe.  To reconcile as fast as possible, perhaps out of fear of a death, that death of what was comfortable, the death of what I thought I lived for—that routine called my life, I loved so much. If you fell in, would you ever skate again? Perhaps only once the lake froze, three seasons later, perhaps the next day, on the other side of the lake, with your friends shouting out “idiot!” Don’t put your full weight on thin ice.

Pleasantness, cold shock. Passive, aggressive. FB relationship , FB single. Do we stop and make a decision, or do we scramble to be comfortable, to save ourselves?

I believe there are two human quests that will always fail when we’re at it alone. You will recognize these quests, or participate in one, daily:

1)      people searching out the perfect person to love, either now, or planning on it later.

2)      people seeking to become the perfect lover.

Love and be loved. From afar, it seems like number one is hopeless and idealistic: a person desires to find his or her soul mate, the one he or she couldn’t live without. “The grass is greener on the other side.” Then number two seems like a dream come true, Christ in the flesh, if you will.

However, I have tried to be number two and realized Manning has some potent advice for me: “Apart from God’s love we’re all shadowy players, haphazardly walking through our roles on the stage of life. The love of God alone is meaning and substance.”

It’s not about becoming the perfect lover. It’s about being loved by the perfect lover, who cannot be human, as no human is perfect. Including you, me. Why become the perfect lover without being perfectly loved? To never be left behind? To earn love you crave?  To gain praise over the sweat and toil of your sacrifices? To enable? To suffer abuse, justifiably?

The truth is, if we don’t love because we know that we are loved enough ourselves to love others, we are loving in fear, in bondage for the need to be loved. “The love of God alone is meaning and substance.” Apart from his love, we can do nothing, nothing but skate comfortably. Don’t be, but do. We act as if it’s okay to not be content, if one can just keep skating.

I skated along as the “perfect lover” or, rather, the people pleaser. Avoiding conflict, asking tough questions without probing, hoping for the best. When the ice cracked, I fell straight in, popped-out, frozen in shock. It all happened so fast. I protected my heart without even thinking twice, it felt like survival 101. I screamed F* you, de-friended my boyfriend, and sought a warm blanket after describing my cold shock to close friends. I had no idea I would risk the happy life I had before in measly minutes of cold shock. At the time, it felt natural, understandable.

This wouldn’t have happened, had I not been skating. Skating through my faith, my relationship, my boundaries. I was not aware of what forgiveness and God’s love meant in that moment I fell through thin ice, I only remembered that God wanted my best, and this wasn’t it, I had decided. It was over.

I became selfish and bitter. Worse than that: a bitter “Christian,” someone who grieves without hope.

After warming up, and hearing his explanations of the misinterpreted information, all I wanted was to skate again. It’s comfortable. But I had messed up, sick and still wet from the fall, a drowned rat. I was no longer me, no longer the “perfect” lover. I had a capacity for anger. I can’t forgive and forget so easily anymore. I didn’t even know what it meant. I didn’t even know I had my own cave of anger.

I wanted to love unconditionally, like God, and become a perfect lover to my boyfriend, to shake off this cold and wet feeling. Then it hit me that I desire being a perfect lover, not because I wanted my boyfriend’s best, but because I had a fear of being apart from him.

I didn’t want to see him for months. Years. I felt shriveled, an empty casing. But hearing stories of reconciliation inspired me. Once I tumbled out the bulk of my anger in emails, I crashed. All I wanted was to be held. All I wanted was for things to be as they were.

I don’t believe the grass is greener on the other side. Yes, I believe I could go find someone else. But love doesn’t happen because you find the “perfect” person. Love happens when you choose to love. It’s not an act of fear, but an act of courage.  Judy Hougen, author of “Transformed into Fire,” puts it this way:

Jesus loves men and women, not for what He finds in them, but for what lies within                                       Himself….He does not detect what is congenial, appealing, attractive, and respond to it                                                with favor. In fact, He does not respond at all. The father of Jesus is a source. He acts; He                       does not react. He initiates love. He is love without motive. (116)

He is the source. Apart from knowing and believing God is the source of love, I will never be the perfect lover, because I will never be loved perfectly. Call the search for your human soul mate off. Your soul mate is next to you, his name is Jesus, he’s waiting for you to realize how messed up you are, yet how much he loves us, anyway. His love is deeper than the oceans, reaching further than east is to the west.

I told God, all I wanted to do was hug him, my “ex” boyfriend. He told me I could. I was shocked. I was driving over, in the fast lane. “Annie, he will still be there if you drive in the slow lane, the whole way there,” God said, “even if there’s a crash slowing everything down, he will still be there, needing that hug.” I was excited—God was talking to me. I had prayed to hear God’s still small voice, as I knew God was with me, and it worked.

I showed up and his house was dark. “Sh00t.” I thought. “I’m demon possessed.”I’m a bit of a drama queen now, apparently. I remembered the verse that faith is not an act by sight. I knocked on the door. Just once. Stood. Began to accept that I was not hearing God’s voice after all, when the door swung open. He needed my hug.

We wept.

I prayed aloud. It was a beautiful moment, I’ll never forget. And I didn’t do it in fear. I didn’t hug him to make me love him back, to make him love me more. I hugged him because he needed it.

Strangely enough, I decided I won’t date him again until I recognize that dating him doesn’t mean I will marry him. This will take some time to get used to: after six years of dating exclusively, I didn’t earn marriage.

Truth is, reconciling this very moment would not be an act of love, it would be an act of fear. Right now, I don’t want a future without him, despite some shocking mistakes. Faith, love, hope—they should never be derived from fear. Yet, Christians do this often.

Why accept that Christ loves you? Just so that you don’t go to hell?  Don’t become beloved out of fear. If we truly understood how much we are loved by God, we would desire to love him back, with a true love, an honest love that does not act in fear of others’ reactions. God doesn’t want us to primarily be perfect lovers. He wants us to be perfectly loved by him, the creator and sustainer himself. To do that, we would have a lot of fear to dump, a lot of bullshit to give up. I believe that God would rather have us scream out to him: “Why me? Why has this happened?” Than to “accept” love, where there’s no room inside, because an unaddressed anger, lust, greed, grudge is still there, swept under the rug. Don’t accept love because it’s the “right thing to do.” Perhaps it’s only the right thing to do after a change of heart, which is an uphill battle for us. Humans are so stubborn. We are terrifying creatures, walking with the kingdoms of heaven and hell inside of us. We are weak, but the decisions we make, the decision to share and receive truth and love are vital. I believe God wants us to wrestle with him, he is not afraid of our emotions, our reactions, our brokenness, our loneliness or our pride. His love is unconditional. He doesn’t want to reconcile with the good people, he wants to reconcile with you. With me. With your ex spouse. With your betraying best friend. He wants you, them—to know that you are created for more than this. The world will know Christ through how he truly redeems a messed up situation.

It’s understandable to yell “F* you!” and run off, after a betrayal. But to leave it there, without seeking help, without processing, means to act without hope, to act without Jesus Christ, who is hope.

Which is why I am choosing a path toward reconciliation. Which is why I am choosing to act slowly, that I may act out of love, not fear. Which is why I choose to live intentionally, with awareness of how I am feeling, instead of skating comfortably.

Crack that ice, become alive. It’s the season to break wide open, to warm up again.

Yes, I’m still angry, but not without hope; I feel alive.

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