Adjusting

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This last week the supervisory staff of The Salvation Army Family & Community Services met for two days to flesh out the goals in our strategic plan. The issue of change was the theme: how we engage change as individuals and how we, as an agency, were moving into change. We came away with a unified, collaborative plan to move the work forward over the next year or two. It was exhausting but well worth the time away from the office.

This Saturday morning as I sit in the silence I begin to think about the season that I am in. As a backdrop to the retreat we used the verses from Ecclesiastes on change: “for everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” Those words resound in my heart today as a harbinger of my new reality. As one for whom change is a way of life, I’m not exactly scared but I am curious.

When I fell the other week, I felt alone and broken. My weakness was not something that I enjoyed in any way, shape or form. Yet even in the midst of that pain and weakness, I realized my initial reaction of being alone was brought on by habit rather than reality. In the past I had been alone, for so many reasons. But that is no longer the case. Yes, I live alone and am not really a fan, but I have people who are present and active in my life. I am known and accepted. I am loved and wanted. These are all new realities for me. I am in a new time of life that for all its awesome beauty is a bit of a transition for me. I can no longer define life in the same manner as before. I need a new vocabulary.

I am having to navigate my way into what so many people consider normal, yet for me is as foreign as the land of Oz. The color is heightened; the companionship is unusual and unexpected but welcome; and the adventures are thrilling yet terrifying. Like the Tin Man, Scarecrow, or Lion I am having a hard time embracing what has been mine all along. Yet I am. I am embracing this belonging, even as my head spins.

There is a time for everything. Now is the time to belong, to embrace, to be known and to know.

This could take some adjusting.

Embracing the Love

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“Love takes courage, and anyone who says differently is an a**hole!” the old man told his soon to be born grandsons. This line from the play Smokefall rings through my mind not just because it is hilarious (even if you don’t like the language) but because it is oh so true.

The play at the Goodman Theater involves many themes of love, of family, of heartbreak, of predestination, and of transformation. If you have the opportunity to see it, you should. It will have you thinking (and laughing) for days.

What stood out to me is how the play reflected the complexity of life. In one’s twenty’s life is still mostly simple. Life has such hope and such ambition. This all lasts until the first child or first death or first heartbreak, then life becomes inordinately complex. However, it is a shame to disillusion the young with the vagaries of the adult world. It is cruel to take that simple dream from them. Yet it is also cruel not to give them the tools to triumph over the complexities of life when they come.

“LOVE TAKES COURAGE!” the old man yelled. Yes, to love after heart-break, after death, after pain takes great courage. To reveal our hearts to others whether in friendship or romance takes great courage. Sometimes more courage than we think we have.

I wrote last week about embracing the pain. Yet it is absolutely impossible to embrace the pain of our lives, whether physical or spiritual or emotional, if we cannot embrace the love as well. Masochism is not the answer. If we only embrace our pain, as some do, we become nihilists who bemoan all of existence and make life miserable for anyone around us. I’ve actually met someone like this, and it takes great fortitude to maintain any kind of relationship. In fact, I couldn’t do it because I did not have the support system in place to help me bear the torrent of bitterness. I embrace my pain but not at the expense of foregoing love.

Having experienced pain, loss, betrayal and grief makes it harder to embrace love (in all its forms), yet once we do, it makes it so much sweeter. Just as adding salt to a recipe highlights the sweetness of the ingredients, so does pain or grief make all worthy relationships that much more special. Friendships mean more. Relationships have depth and purpose. It is far harder to take people for granted. I know I can’t.

Yet love takes courage.

It takes courage to speak the truth. It takes courage to offer ourselves when the potential for rejection exists. It takes courage to love without strings and without expectation. It takes courage to embrace our pain even as we embrace our love.

Ecclesiastes talks about the meaninglessness of life. I believe Solomon was weighed down by the overwhelming power this world has to bring us to our knees. The pain of this world has an ability to take us to the breaking point. Yet even Solomon understood that in the midst of toil and strife it is critical to have someone by your side, someone you are toiling for, someone to uphold you in your hard times. It is even better to have two by your side.

So despite how hard this life is, how much pain we must endure, how much grief we bear, it IS possible to bear it. It IS possible to not just survive but to thrive. We do that by simultaneously remembering our pain and by choosing daily to embrace love.

“Love takes courage, and anyone who says differently is an a**hole!”

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Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,

    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls

    and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.

    But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,

    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.