With Love On Valentines

I’m a sucker for Valentine’s Day. I always have been and I’m pretty sure I always will be. And I’ll shamelessly admit it to anyone who asks or doesn’t ask.

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When I was a kid, Valentine’s cards were the very bestest. Every year, Mom would let us pick out a package we liked and then we’d spend beautiful hours picking the right ones for the right people and writing their names out, usually on February 13th. And then I’d bask in the multitudes of Valentines I’d receive myself. Each one had a special memo and picture, just for me, I felt. Some were even home made. And the more I received, the more affirmed and loved I felt. It was absolutely glorious.

Now I’m a university student and although the idea of making Valentines for treasured friends still appeals to me, I didn’t write a single card this year. Now I’m at the age where friends are either going on dates or complaining over their lack of a love life or ranting on the stupidity such a day. And I received a total of two Valentines cards this year.

I spent the day at school, though I didn’t have classes. Instead, I spent an average day in the life of a theatre major; I shot a promo video for my upcoming play, postered campus for the said production, and I worked on set pieces, for, you gussed it, that show I’m in. I didn’t do anything totally out of the ordinary, for me at least. And to be honest, the fact that it was Valentine’s Day didn’t change a lot of stuff.

But still, it was Valentine’s Day and I spent it with people.

I laughed and did silly stunts and commiserated with friends. We talked of first meetings and became giddy over the silliness of things that were once serious.

I worked with people. We finished tasks and we helped each other and smiled at the fruits of our labour. It was hard work, but the presence of others eased the pain.

A friend and I traveled home together. Both exhausted from fighting terrible bugs and a long week of school, we shared the week’s ‘gossip’ and beauty and giggles.

And I see the people, from my window, running to catch busses or trains or getting in their cars. I see them walking. A man carries flowers as he strolls down the sidewalk. A couple walks a pair of German shepherds who can’t seem to get enough of each other.

There are people. All around us. Walking, working, laughing, learning. Loving.

Tonight I spend an introverted, university-ish night, reading Chekhov and rehearsing lines. But family drifts in and out and I’m reminded of the people and love that comprised my day.

There is love all around. Valentine’s Day is just a glimpse of that. A reminder.

Yesterday, my mom recalled what I’d said to her when I was a disappointed and disillusioned seven-year-old, who didn’t receive as many Valentines as her sister had: “I don’t see what’s so special about Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day isn’t special. I don’t know why people said it was special. There’s no family. There’s no dinner.”

I beg to differ now, with my once disappointed self. Valentine’s Day is special, whether it’s spent with flowers and dinner or as an ordinary school day. It can be special, if we spend it with those around us and choose to see the world with a window of love.

I realize I’m being a bit poetical and aarie-faerie here. I realize also that those kind of words don’t often mean much to all people.

But think on this. The roots of Valentine’s Day are in a man called St. Valentine. He was a martyr to love, specifically the God-designed institute of marriage. He died for what he believed, for a noble cause, for a relationship and heritage that still breathes joy today.

It is a legacy. A passing down. Of joy, family, friendship, love.

We were created in the image of God and made for relationship. Whether we are married or single or love or abhor the sticking tradition of Valentine’s Day, that is the truth.

The day is nearly done now. There’s about three more hours of this day when chocolate is expected and secret admirer notes are acceptable.

Yet I encourage you, to embrace Valentine’s Day, for all it’s worth in the short hours that remain. I beg of you more to take hold  of the attitude of sacrificial love that inspired it. Most of all, I call you to love people and in loving people, you love Him as well.

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Here // This is Beauty

I often find myself longing for the exquisite. I dream of adventure, beauty, and joy. Slowly, I pass through life, wondering if there’s more and when happiness will ever abound.

Every person has a dream. I have several. They say every girl longs for a prince and a castle and I’ve spent life looking for mine.

~~~

But then sometimes I find myself, caught gently in snow-globe moments, within the passage of everyday life.

The sun rises, glorious, majestic, golden pink and sets in the same beauty and colour. A winter wonderland in the morrow. White magic glistens from the tree tops and everywhere, promising a white Christmas after all.

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Later, we bundle up, gloves on hands and boots on feet, ear muffs, toques, scarves and all. Giddy, we venture outside, dashing through fluffy snow, we prance and play. Two forts, we build. A snowball fight ensues.

Well after midnight, we sit around the instruments, playing and singing. One groggy body after another curls up in some sanctuary corner and falls to slumber. But soon enough, we’re laughing again, running through hallways, playing, and telling stories.

The table is set early, the smell of pancakes and sausage drifts through the space, and sleepy limbs settle on chairs. Christmas carols stream from the iPod in the kitchen. We say a prayer before eating, and the light from the wonderland shines in on us. Silence ensues as we gobble. Hot chocolate for still sleeping souls and scrambled eggs fill our tummies.

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And as I look upon the exhausted faces, smiling in spite of their sleepless night, I can’t help but wonder if I’ve found what I set out to. Its a snow-globe moment. Adventure, beauty, and joy are all in this room. The secret, daily longings I’ve struggled so long for have reached my soul at last.

~~~

Today, we skated round and round. Half the church came out. We drank hot chocolate and smiled in each other’s presence. The exercise and cold air and companionship filled my lungs and gave me strength.

And I realized, the answer of these longings is never far away.

What I’ve been looking for has been here the whole time. Perhaps it was hiding just beyond reach or maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough. But it was here.

Perhaps the exquisite is simple and beauty looks like the smile in your eyes when we talk.

Maybe adventure can be found in building a snow fort in the church parking lot.

Perchance joy is grasped in simply being. Yes, I think joy comes from realizing each daily adventure and seeing the beauty for what it is.

Fulfillment is right now. Today. This moment. I’ve found it.

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Is there more to life than this? You’d better believe it.

But it is here, found among the ordinary, dancing in our souls. This God-given, blessed life is the more that we crave.

Here. This is beauty.

Longing: A Story Of The Here And Now

For the past three and a half months, I’ve been longing for this time. I’ve dreamed of December days when the homework is finished and out of sight and Christmas baking and gifts pile up instead. As a student, all semester Christmas, it seems, is as good as it gets.

Now, the bright lights blur in my eyes as I drive home from town. One whole semester, with every success and bleary-eyed morning, long day and rippling laugh, behind me. My third term is finished and there’s five whole semesters left.

I’m done. I’m here. I made it! I wrote my last exam on Tuesday and its been a week now. Yet my heart still longs for what I do not have.

I wish that I could eat the pizza in the fridge and the cookies I’m going to make, but my mouth is still sore from surgery last week. I long to have presents ready and crafts made. I want to feel useful and creative once more. Christmas day, seeing family, and visiting friends form happy images in my mind. Something about the holiday season — perhaps its the mistletoe or maybe the fact that I’m bored — makes me dream of romance. And all of a sudden, I’m caught up in the circle of longings again.

But my finals are done and I got A’s on my papers and I think “well, that’s pretty great.” The tree is up and I was able to consume a muffin today. But there is always something more that I’d like to have. That’s just the nature of life on earth, I suppose.

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I get home after volunteering at the Thrift Store, which once served as my summer job, feeling fulfilled. My name tag was still hanging on the rack and everything seemed as if I’d never left it at all. I hung up clothes, answered questions, and ran people through the till a few times. The work was simple, but it gave me so much joy.

At home, the tree is all lights and the star welcomes me in. There are dishes to wash while I chat with my mom and sip coffee from my favourite mug. I find jars and napkins and tins to aid my DIY gifts and the butter is finished thawing for the sugar cookies I’m going to make.

My bible sits in the box beside me. I’ve been reading random chapters lately — mostly short, New Testament ones like Peter and Titus and John — because I don’t know where to start sometimes.

~~~~~

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This is life. It is simple, but it is good.

I long for the future and for future days and plans and people. But today, I also give thanks for the present because it is the time to be lived in.

And I realize, that in all these longings, there is a desire to love the here and now. Longing is really a story of what we already have.

Love People

Almost a whole month ago, I completed my first year of university. It was a great year; I did well, I learned a lot about myself, God, and my craft, and I began the process of following my career dreams. Yes, it was a very good year indeed.

But still, I have regrets. Even though I managed my time well. Even though I studied for every test and handed each paper in on time. I still wish I could do something over again.

I didn’t love people. And I regret that.

Back in September, I arrived at university, fresh out of high school with all kinds of expectations for how I was going to make friends and be a great person. The first couple of days, I was very friendly, making small talk with every freshman I saw. But that’s all it was — just small talk. And I regret that.

I was one of about thirteen other first years in my program. I certainly wasn’t lacking in people who shared a common interest with me. And they are all, along with our entire theatre department, warm, interesting, and friendly. But still, I didn’t find myself at home there.

I think I did it on purpose. See, I’d run away from people. I remember eating lunch and even doing homework outside for the first couple of weeks of sunny school days. I told myself and others that I “wanted to take in the sun while it lasted” and perhaps that was partly true; but now I know that I also just wanted to avoid other people.

I didn’t arrange to go to see shows or do homework or just hang out with others because it “wasn’t convenient” or “we didn’t live close by” or “I really worked better alone.” I became obsessed with my schoolwork; I was worried that my grades would falter if I lent even a bit of time to my friendships.

I even let my older friendships go. Sure, I was really busy. But still, I just abandoned everyone. Stopped all communication, pretty much. All because I was afraid of my grades dropping.

But really, deep down inside, I was afraid to love people.

I was afraid to let myself go and allow people to see me for who I was, with all of my flaws and imperfections. And let them love me for that.

I was scared of the rejection that I thought that I “knew” would come of loving others.

But I’ve learned that this is not the way to live. In fact, not loving people without reserve was one of the biggest mistakes that I made this year. Because even though its rewarding to read a prof’s compliments or a glowing transcript, you’re alone. Praise is lovely, but it isn’t a friend. Accomplishments — no matter what form they are in — are always great, but success will never love you as much as you think you adore it.

So love people. It isn’t easy. I’m still learning how. I think it’s maybe even easier for me to write an English final than truly, really invest in people on a daily basis. But it’s really worth it.

good friends

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Love. Because it is lovely. And I don’t think you will ever regret it.

Love the Lord. Love people. Because Jesus said those were the greatest of the commandments.

Love others. Because God made us to love and be loved.

Vulnerable

Vulnerability. Complete, utter, raw honesty. I dread it more than anything.

“Elizabeth!” the sound of my name, spoken by my prof awoke my mind’s childish nightmare. I had known this moment would come. Of course it would. But I hated it all the same.

The music played and I flitted across the room. Everyone else followed my ridiculous motions. I was embarrassed and uncomfortable beyond belief. A thousand memories from my life, in which I’d danced and utterly failed, punched me in the stomach. What am I doing here? I wondered.

We were dancing in Acting class today, in case you were wondering. It was called “Finding Your Character’s Physicality.” My prof put on some music, asked us to dance in certain ways, and then finally, made us lead. All of it begged for my vulnerability–something I did not want to give at that moment.

My scene partner and I rehearsed for almost four hours. We searched for that vulnerability for our scene. We even prayed for it. It’s funny because that is exactly what I wanted yet I was so terrified of actually finding it, that I blocked myself off in every way that I could. Sometimes vulnerability is the very thing that you truly need, but what you convince yourself you don’t want.

I don’t like to be vulnerable. Its embarrassing–just like dancing in Acting was today. Its painful–you have to open up a part of yourself that you’d really like to hide. And its scary because there is the fear that once you let yourself go to someone, that person is going to hurt you.

Tonight, I let a lot of that go. I didn’t want to do it. I kicked and screamed my way there. But it needed to be done because I realized that there is no real person or real relationship when you hold yourself back. Only a fake, uncomfortable body uttering things that don’t really make sense.

You see, I’m a classic at pretending. It’s not that I mean to lie or that I’ve never had a true friend before, but on a day-to-day basis, I’m not always real. It’s hard for me to be who I am, from the inside out, with everyone I meet. Why? Because I am afraid of hurt. I’m desperately scared to know what people see when they look right through me. And I am hopelessly frightened of being left behind. These are the fears I have when I look someone in the eye and talk to them. This is what I face everyday–the fear of vulnerability. The fear of honesty. The fear of relationship.

The funny thing is that I am not afraid to write. I never have been. I don’t care if a million people read this and know my fears, but saying it to your face would be a lot harder.

But I am going to change that. Step by step. I am going to say it to your face. I am going to be real. Ask you how your day has been. Actually give you a hug or a touch. Put you first and listen hard. Talk in a real voice and bare my real thoughts, emotions, hopes, and dreams. I am going to dare to be vulnerable—because that is where true relationships are at.

Thoughts On Thanksgiving

As a child, I adored Thanksgiving. Of course, there isn’t as much in it for a kid — no piles of presents like at Christmas or Easter Bunny to bring chocolates, but still I loved Thanksgiving. I wasn’t an increadibly mature or respectful child, but I enjoyed the opportunity to see my extended family members. Thanksgiving always meant that there were cousins and family friends to play with, Grancha to talk to when the playing was done, and uncles to tease me. I didn’t know it, but I had the true spirit of Thanksgiving although I could not articulate what I was thankful for then.

It is only 2 ‘o clock, but I am writing in here because today is Thanksgiving and it will be too late to write when I go to bed tonight. But I have to write now because I am SO excited! It seems so long until they will all come.

An excerpt from my journal, October 2004

paleo pumpkin pie 3

paleo pumpkin pie 3 (Photo credit: Liz_Davis217)

I still remember the first time I made pumpkin pie. Both of my grandmothers, Situ and Grancha, had come that year. I was twelve-years-old and proudly smiled when everyone told me it was one of the best they’d ever tasted. I eagerly anticipated my littlest cousin’s birth that Thanksgiving, too. Next year, around the annual turkey dinner, she would be there, crawling around from lap to lap.

“I’ve written a poem about Thanksgiving,” I announced the next year. It was one of my first poems, written for my Grade 8 poetry assignment. “It’s called Thanksgiving Sounds and it’s an Onomatopia.”

Stir, slosh, swish, sizzle

Many hands are at work

Ding, dong, rat, rat-a-tat-tat

Sounds are coming from the door

Buzz, chirp, sqawk, yak, murmer

Friends and relatives converse

Clatter, clack, thud

Dinner is served

Smack, gulp, crunch, chew

Dinner is gobbled up in a hurry

Buzz, chirp, squawk, yak, murmur

The room is filled with endless chatter once again

“Thanksgiving Sounds,” October 2007

At sixteen, Thanksgiving was a gloomy affair. My grandmother, Situ, died on October 7th, 2010, three days before Thanksgiving Sunday. We had a small gathering on Saturday that year, but I don’t remember much of it except that I was incredibly sad and not very thankful. There was no pumpkin pie because I hadn’t made one. All I could think about was what I didn’t have instead of what I did have.

What do I have to be thankful for this year, God? A funeral to go to, a grandma who is dead, perpetual grief, and depression?

My thoughts in October 2010

Each of those memories seems so long ago now, yet they flood back to me in an instant when I ponder the word Thanksgiving. In a way, part of me is grateful for each of those years and Thanksgivings — even the sad one. Because God shaped me into the person I am today through all of those experiences. Each Thanksgiving is part of me, just as each year is, and I wouldn’t give it up if I could.

This Thanksgiving, I am a first-year university student. I’ll be studying Spanish verbs and the history of Ancient Greek Art and writing an English essay draft this weekend. Like every other year, it’s a different Thanksgiving from before. I have new worries, troubles, thoughts, prayers, and joys. But I am thankful because of a verse that keeps coming back to me. It doesn’t promise perfection or happiness, but it does promise peace. The peace of prayer and a thankful heart.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again; Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

Through Christ Who Strengthens Me

A couple of days ago, I got to see the sun glisten off of snow-covered peeks as I enjoyed another day of skiing. The weather was perfect with blue skies overhead and white powder at our ski tips. There was something so beautiful about the whole day from the beginning that I knew it was going to be good.

English: Tracks of skis in snow in the Sarek N...

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“After we get off, follow me,” my friend said as our last chair lift ride came to an end.

“Ok,” I replied. My friend, I’d learned, knew his way around the mountain. He even knew a bit about skiing, although he’s a snowboarder. Even though he’d been trying to take me on a black run all day, I pushed the fear out of my mind and zoomed down the hill behind him, practicing my parallel skiing techniques.

He got there first and waved me in. I hiked up a ways with my poles to where he was with his board. The sight that met me was not what I’d been expecting or hoping for. I saw a hill that went almost straight down, full of powdery snow.

“That’s steep,” I said, truly afraid.

“Yeah.”

“I don’t think I can do it. No, I can’t!” I was about to turn away.

“Come on, Liz,” he encouraged.

“No!” I said, thoroughly against it.

“You’ll feel so good after you do it though.”

I looked from him to the mountain and back at him. Then, I pondered it all. As I thought, I heard a Voice say, “Why can’t you do it?”

“Because–” I thought, reaching in my mind for all of the excuses that I’d used before. The insecurities. The bad experiences. All of the things that haunted me and made me feel inadequate. The stuff that scared me. The hurt and scars. Yet somehow, I wasn’t that anymore. I had come far. Farther than all of those stupid lies and heartaches. And I’d reached this point because Christ had strengthened me.

“Okay, I can do this,” I said, digging my poles into the fresh powder and pushing off down the mountain of doom.

“Yes, you can!” my friend called.

It was slow going at first. I was super scared of getting stuck like I did last time or getting injured really badly. I skied cautiously. At first, I was even afraid of the necessary turns. But somehow, at some point, I began to actually do it. I was skiing down a big, steep hill! Yes, I was! I was doing the black diamond that I said I’d never do! I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! I thought. Yes, I can! Yes, I’m doing it–

And then my skis slipped and twisted and I fell in a tangled mess on the big, powdery hill.

But I was laughing. Laughing for real. Laughing the old, real Elizabeth laugh that I haven’t used in a while. Or maybe it was a new laugh that I developed from that fall. I don’t know. All I understand about that moment was that it was wonderful. I felt wonderful. Snow was beautiful, my friend was right, and God was good. Nothing could ever be better. My friend didn’t even have to ask me if I was alright after that fall.

“Do you see why I like black runs so much?” he asked, helping me up from the snow.

“Yes!” I said, still laughing my heart away.

That wasn’t the end of my falling for the day. Oh, no. I fell several more times on that slope. Sometimes, my legs were so tangled and sore that I had to stop and catch my breath. It was tough going for me. But it was worth it because the hard things in life are often the best. And I did it because God was skiing with me with the strength that I needed.

I went to bed happy that night. I thought back on my day, on life, and all the worries and problems that I have. Sometimes life is like a mountain — it seems too steep to get through. We feel like giving up or taking our skis off and walking down. But the truth is that we can do it, if we only trust and keep our skis forward. God is real. He made the mountains, after all. And He is with us every step of the way. I know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

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Ski Hill Surrender

This was the weekend of surprises, the unexpected, and surrendering myself to the Maker of skill hills.

Yes, I still went skiing with my youth group as planned. Yes, we made it up safely and quickly on Friday night. I remembered all of my gear, brought enough money for a day pass, and even met up with my good friend who had been planning to board that day as well. Seemingly, everything was in place on Saturday morning.

However, God decided to surprise me and my day was nothing like it was supposed to be. The “fun run” my friend persuaded me to go on and the 40 cm of snow left me stuck and stranded until help came ten minutes later. After I got back onto the right track, I found myself helping a little girl get her skis back on. Just as everything was as smooth as could be, I wiped out again and lost both of my skis. It took my forever to get them back on. I’m not even kidding when I say that I skied just one run on Saturday morning.

Needless to say, I was exhausted, discouraged, and downright frustrated by the time I met up with my youth group for lunch. My limbs ached, and coat dripped from all the falling. I looked around for my friend, who I had long since lost in the snow of the mountain, and was disappointed to find him nowhere. I bit into an apple with disgust and thought of how much better everything could have been. I tried not to show my feelings but inside I was saying, “Thanks a lot, God.”

“Why are you crying?” He asked, as I leaned my head against my skis outside of the lodge. Since my other plans had fallen through, I’d decided to ski with two of my new youth group friends. The only problem was, another surprise had occurred — their rental skis had gone missing! We’d searched high and low, but they were nowhere to be found. Finally, my friends had gone inside to inquire about new skis while I waited at the rack.

“I’m not crying.”

“I know what you’re feeling,” He whispered.

“Yeah, I’m kind of upset I guess,” I sighed. “I got stuck a lot. Nothing worked out. Nothing is working out. This isn’t how it is supposed to be.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s not how I planned it.”

“How you planned it? What about how I planned this weekend? Why don’t you trust me, child? Where is your faith?”

I bit my lip. “I do trust you!” I said. “I told you that earlier!” I thought back to our conversation at the top of the ski hill, when my legs were deeply sunk into the snow. I’d tried to convince Him that I had enough faith for Him to dig me out.

“Then why don’t you just let me lead you? Why do you insist on your plan all the time? What if I have something different for this weekend and it is better? I love you.”

By then, I was crying. The tears were hidden by my goggles and scarf, but they were there. I had forgotten His wisdom and more importantly, His love. Forgotten. How could I? I didn’t even forget my ski socks, yet I forgot about my Saviour. I forgot His plan and how good it is. I forgot to put Him first because He loves me more than anyone else in the world.

It was a ski hill surrender, in goggles and mits. I decided to trust and accept His love. I promised to let Him back in and show me just what He wanted. The rest of my weekend was great. I can’t say that it was how I planned it or that I didn’t have any more rebellion. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. We had some wipe outs, lost a few more skis, and went to bed with sore limbs. At one point, we took a wrong turn and my friend crashed into me with her skis. But all the way through I heard Him calling for trust and I said, “Yes, Lord.” It wasn’t easy, but it was right. The rewards came — I made two new friends, learned how to ski in powder, had some great conversations and moments, caught up with old friends, and played a new card game. It was good. It wasn’t my plan but it was His and it was better.

Tonight I’m going to bed with sore legs and a heart that knows that trust is hard, surrender is harder, but still God is best.