Cissy Brady-Rogers
Cissy Brady-Rogers Cissy Brady-Rogers Cissy Brady-Rogers

Tag: love

As I wrap up my writing sabbatical, I recognize the self-critical part of me that tells me “You didn’t do enough.” Ever present and ready to condemn me, I’m grateful I can notice that voice of shame, take a breath and soften into the truth that it is enough, that I am enough. I’m grateful for the ways of grace that are only learned through practice: compassion, self-forgiveness and letting go of judgement. And for the way writing my story integrates grace into dark corners still hurting and in need of lovingkindness.

Just installed last week - Casey Family Tribute at Calvary Cemetery in Seattle

Just installed last week – Casey Family Tribute at Calvary Cemetery in Seattle

I didn’t expect to write a memoir about addiction, sin and grace. Yet that is the story I’ve lived, in ways I’ve resisted sharing with the world–especially as a therapist. But grace is leading me to share the story and entrust the results to God.

Today’s offering, along with a few photos of yesterday’s pilgrimage to the the family plot of paternal great grandparents in Seattle, more on sin, grace and the longing to love in an unloving world.

We choose “sin” as a way to cope with living in an unloving world, a world where we can’t always get the love we long for. We sin as a way to cope with stress and shame. We sin as a way to cope with the emotional vulnerabilities that come with being human. Biblical inventories of sins identify some of the more obvious and destructive ways that we—yearning for love—imperfectly navigate an imperfect world of humans. Especially in order to cope with the shame we feel for being imperfect, for not being enough to meet the demands of our circumstances.

Cousin Nancy Anne Herkenrath, SNJM on Family Heritage Pilgrimage

Cousin Nancy Anne Herkenrath, SNJM on Family Heritage Pilgrimage

Grace enables us to accept limitations, forgive failures and let go of the shame that so easily entangles us in loveless cycles of relationship with ourselves and others. Grace is the ever-present energy of God’s love that enables us to soften in the face of our own and others unloving ways. Grace allows us to stay open, receptive, and vulnerable rather than hardening our hearts. Grace frees us to confess our sins, take responsibility for our unloving ways and learn from our failures.

What’s so amazing about grace is that we can’t control it and it doesn’t control us. But grace is ever present wanting to engage us, seeking to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves. My Great Uncle Solanus Casey, the first American born male venerated (the first of three steps for official canonization) in the Catholic Church, referred to God’s grace as being like the air that permeates us. He suggested that “If we were only to correspond with God’s graces continually being poured out, we’d go from being great sinners one day to being great saints the next.”

Great Uncle Solanus Casey

Great Uncle Solanus Casey

For me, this is the essence of setting my mind on the Spirit: corresponding with the grace of God that wants me to thrive, that wants me to be able to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and love my neighbor as myself. Jesus said that all the law was summed up in these two commands. Do this, he said, and you will live!

Created by God, in the image of God, what is deepest in us is God’s love. Love is our eternal nature. At our core is a longing to love and be loved.

“Sin” is a word to describe both our human “state” of being limited in our capacity to live in love, as well as the specific ways we manifest falling short of living in love—like my history of addiction. But sin is not what is deepest and most “original” to human nature. As author John Philip Newell puts it, created in God’s image, God’s love is deepest. Sin obscures, but never erases that image. Our human wiring to love and be loved is deeper than sin. And avoiding the pain of love’s absence drives the impulse to sin.

This morning I’m especially grateful for the centrality of God’s love and grace I learned in my family. And for the prayers of my dear Great Uncle, mom, dad and all the other saints interceding for me and for you that we might correspond with the grace being poured out today as we seek to sin less and love more.

Father Richard Rohr says that the entire second half of life is about letting go…of ego, of doing, of the need to prove myself, of having things my way.

There’s a lot to let go of!

We Love You Cobbs

We Love You Cobbs

This past weekend I said goodbye to a dear friend, a soul sister who has walked with me the past ten years. A group of friends surprised her family Saturday morning. We showed up at their estimated time of departure to send them off with one last outpouring of love. Some helped finish packing, others vacuumed, some stood around visiting and drinking coffee. Then, we waved them off to the great adventure awaiting them in Washington.

When I returned home, I cried.

The tears began slipping out in little bits a few months ago when Lauren first told me she was moving.

Then again last Saturday night at a going away party.

Then again at her final yoga class with me last Wednesday. At the end of class, as the rest of the students lay in final resting pose, I went and adjusted her shoulders for the last time. Then, I looked at her face, so serene and lovely, and began to cry, again.

Goodbye Soul Friend

Goodbye Soul Friend

I know the tears speak of other “letting go” experiences. Of more than just a friend moving away. They remind me of the many I’ve loved who’ve moved on, either geographically or through death. The many I’ve known and loved who are no longer just around the corner, up the freeway, or a phone call away.

When I went to my yoga mat later Saturday morning, more tears came.

Not just for Lauren, but for Colleen, for Dee, for Peggy, for Andrea and Paul, for Marsha and Greg, for Francie, for Linda, for Patty and John, for so many soul friends who came and went as I’ve spent most of my life planted here in Los Angeles.

Not just for the living, but for my mom, my dad, aunts and uncles, grandparents I never met, people I grew up with, former pastors and their wives, many dear saints we worshipped with in churches over the years, no longer with us in body.

This week, I’m most aware that it’s another opportunity to let go of the love I want and open myself up to the love I already have.

Recommended Couples Resource

Recommended Couples Resource

A still popular self-help book, Getting the Love You Want, was first published over 20 years ago. It’s a good resource for helping couples develop more supportive, satisfying relationships.

And, getting the love you want isn’t always possible, even with the ones you love.

I wanted Lauren and her family to stay in California.

I want Paul and Andy to live next door.

I wanted to have a child.

The story is complex and many layered.

We never talked about it before marriage. I just assumed we’d have children.

Three years into our marriage, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and the doctors recommended we wait five years, just to be “sure.”

A few years later, my husband, who’d been my “commando” following my diagnosis, fell into a depression. He realized he’d probably been depressed his whole life and was finally beginning to deal with it.

Once I was ready to have kids. He wasn’t.

I stopped going to baby showers or hanging out with friends who had small children. It was too painful.

He wasn’t ready to say “yes” or “no.”

A few more years passed. Individual therapy. Couples therapy. Trying to work it out.

I got older. I felt my body changing. I wondered if having a child in my forties was a good idea. And found myself in tears every month during ovulation, grieving yet another opportunity to birth love into the world.

He still wasn’t ready to say “yes” or “no.” He wanted me to be happy, but didn’t feel a strong urge for fatherhood. And, he worried, “What if…cancer came back…depression reemerged…” Images of himself as a depressed, single dad haunted him.

After years of wrestling within myself, therapy with my husband, pastoral counseling, considering divorce, and shedding many tears in prayer, I made the decision to “let go” of the love I longed for with a child of my own body, in order to hold onto the love, I already had with my husband.

Letting go of the love I wanted. Keeping the love, I already had.

It wasn’t easy. It still isn’t easy.

On days like Saturday when a community of moms, dads and kids gather to send off another family, noticing I’m the only one there without children.

On days like Mother’s day last month or Father’s day yesterday when the focus is on the family.

And, I’m grateful for the wise ones like Richard Rohr who remind me that this is the path to life. No one gets to “have it all.” And, even if we get to have it all, once we get it, we’re told to let it all go.

Many major spiritual traditions offer teachings about letting go.

The Buddha said “You only lose what you cling to.”

The twelve step tradition tells us to “Let go and let God.”

From my faith tradition, I especially like Eugene Peterson’s translation of Jesus’ teaching on letting go.

“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels. This isn’t, you realize, pie in the sky by and by. Some who have taken their stand right here are going to see it happen, see with their own eyes the kingdom of God.”

Gifts are all around us. The kingdom of God is now.

May I have eyes to see the love around me today. In my husband, family and friends, but also in my neighbors, the grocery store clerk or the kind gestures offered by strangers.

For more on letting go, check out the offerings of my blogging community, beginning with Sarah who writes with heartfelt depth and wisdom on walking with her mom through ovarian cancer.

My mom taught me from an early age about loving the unlovable: “I may not like what you do, but I will always love you.”

Usually stated after she’d blown her top in anger while trying to contain and appropriately discipline the wild child energies of my brother and I, the message “No matter what you do, you are loved” went deep into my heart and mind.

Like teenagers throughout history, while working through my adolescent differentiation process, I was convinced my mom didn’t love me. “If you really loved me…” followed by a litany of parental errors filled my mind much of the time.

- “If you really loved me, you would let me do what I want.”

- “If you really loved me, you would give me what I ask for.”

- “If you really loved me, you wouldn’t be depressed and crazy.”

- “If you really loved me, you would make the pain go away.”

- “If you really loved me, you and dad wouldn’t have divorced.”

Volatile arguments with mom marked my teen years. At times I hated her. At other times I felt deep compassion for her suffering. Most of the time I was too busy avoiding and denying the painful reality of her depression, addictions and suicidality to feel anything but indifference.

In her better moments, she did her best to guide my emerging wild feminine nature. Yet as strong willed as she was, her depressed middle-aged energy was no match for my angry adolescent intensity. Her attempts to set boundaries around my choice of friends, where I went and what I did, were sadly ineffective. I’d tell her where I was going and what I was planning to do–sometimes truthfully but most often not. She’d extend some parental guidance in an effort to do her job: “Be sure to call if your plans change.” I’d verbally assent to the plan while knowing all along she’d be out cold by the time I came home and it wouldn’t matter anyway.

As her disease progressed and I became increasingly frightened and resentful of her weakness and ineffectiveness, I acted out my own insecurities in a show of hostility. I responded with outright disrespect and at times, even contempt. I’d laugh at her and dare her to “try and make me” come home at a certain hour.  Sometimes she’d fight back with further attempts to assert her authority, but I’d respond with more venomous words. I have more memories than I’d like of calling her a “fuckin’ bitch” or other hateful things.

And yet, through it all, she’d faithfully call me back to love. Often initiating a conversation about “a new beginning” when our relationship was in more a emotionally stable place. She’d apologize for her “craziness.” I’d cry and admit I loved her and didn’t mean what I’d said. We’d forgive each other and carry on–for a few days, a week or two, sometimes longer, until our next upheaval. The message that I heard time and again:

“No matter how badly you behave, I will always love you.”

Me & Mom in a Box 1984 - Remarkable & Silly Mother

Me & Mom in a Box 1984 – Remarkable & Silly Mother

Ours was never the cozy, intimate, “best friends” kind of mother-daughter relationship. We enjoyed each other at times, laughed and had fun. But it wasn’t a sweet or easy love. Even to her dying days we struggled to love each other well through our words and actions. Yet, in the depths of my innermost being, I knew I was her beloved and precious only daughter. She loved me fiercely, deeply and strongly. She taught me to love and forgive the unlovable in myself and others.

Reflecting on our relationship, I’m grateful she died when I was only 30. Her physical passing put an end to my struggle to love the parts of her I didn’t like, to forgive the things she did that hurt me. Her limited, broken, imperfect human self no longer inhibiting her capacity to love, her goodness lives on in and through me. I see her charm, her wit, her ability to stand up among a group of strangers and speak boldly and clearly–when I engage in those ways. I see her in my mannerisms and the ways I’m physically aging.

I know she’s proud of the women I’ve become and that I’m still working on loving the unlovable in myself and others. And I am forever grateful and proud to be the daughter of Moira Deidre Ford! May she rest in peace.

I’m blessed to participate in a blogroll with a writing group. Please check out Staci’s blog for more on loving the unlovable. 

 

I posted a Mary Oliver inspired Sabbath painting on Instagram recently, along with the first line of her poem “Thirst” and my comment “Thanks be to God for grace that does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.” Quite a few friends “liked” it along with several “Amen” comments and a “Thanks. I needed that today.”

Mary Oliver Inspired

Mary Oliver Inspired

One social media friend responded “I wake with a thirst for the goodness I have!” followed by a party hat emoji. Something about that struck my heart. It evoked my curiosity about the distinction between the goodness we have just by being “good” human beings with positive attitudes and the goodness we do not have.

Ordinary human goodness has to do with reliability, competence, strength, behavior, thoroughness, morality, enjoyment, attractiveness, freshness, worthiness, desirability, promise and so on. We say things like:

“He’s a good person.”

“She’s good looking.”

“It was a good party.”

But what is the goodness we do not have and why does it matter?

It is the goodness of a world where we love our neighbors as ourselves, where every child has clean water, nutritious food, access to health care and education. It’s the goodness of an earth that isn’t being destroyed by toxins and depleted of resources because of greed. It’s the goodness of communities where women receive equal access to education and hold equal earning power to men. It’s the goodness of nations where all lives matter and no one is pulled over by law enforcement just because of the color of their skin.

It matters because many people wake up each morning unable to find any goodness within them or around them. Depression, anxiety, abuse, neglect, trauma, addiction, poverty, violence and the social injustice that underlies much human suffering are among the afflictions that leave some of us to wake thirsting for goodness we do not have. Like dear Mary Oliver,  who suffered a painful childhood, we too long for something more than merely human goodness.

Mary Oliver became a Pulitzer Prize winner and was declared by the NY Times “far and away, this country’s best-selling poet.” I don’t think it was her thirst for the goodness she already had that nourished her creative capacity.  As author and teacher Pat Schneider writes in How the Light Gets In: writing as a spiritual practice, by naming “the bottom of the night within myself…I can begin to understand the darkness of the world” (my paraphrase). I suspect Mary Oliver cultivated her remarkable capacity to hold the tension of the dark and the light by working with her shadow – the goodness she does not have. She is beloved not because she paints the world with a rosy hue, but because she lives in the in-between of the goodness that is and that which is not yet. And that’s the place most of us live – in that tension between owning all that is good, true, beautiful and worthy about us and acknowledging how far short we fall.

I went to mass this morning at my neighborhood Catholic church. I watched a long line of the ordinary “good” people process up for Eucharist, their humble acknowledgement of thirst for the goodness they do not have.  A simple but powerful receptivity to the grace that does for us and through us what we cannot do ourselves.

I am grateful for the goodness I have. But I’m even more grateful for the grace that enables me to acknowledge the goodness I have, forgive the goodness I lack and live with the tensions and sufferings of a world where we do not love as we ought!

“Another morning and I wake with thirst for the goodness I do not have.”

Thanks be to God.

 

My senses rejoice in the sights and sounds of this dark, wet morning. Raindrops dripping from naked tree branches, birds chirping as they hop through glistening bushes, white ceiling of clouds softening the rumble and clanking of trash trucks rolling up and down the street.

Christmas at our house

“Around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out, ‘Stay awhile.’ The light flows from their branches.”

Mary Oliver’s images in “When I am Among the Trees” sank deep into me years ago. Her words resurface frequently–reminding me of the unhurried rhythm of God’s grace I long to embody.

“I am so distant from the hope of myself, in which I have goodness, and discernment, and never hurry through the world…”

Trees, bushes and birds instinctively follow their own rhythm. Unlike me, they live in alignment with their natural  pace and entrust their blossoming to their Creator.

Long a significant symbol for me, I’m surprised to notice we have four trees gracing our living space.

Guests at our annual open house a few weeks ago dressed our ThanksLiving tree with gratitude lists.

ThanksLiving Tree 2014

A living Christmas tree and a rosemary “tree” arrived as gifts from guests. And we carried our baby Christmas tree home from our local nursery on Saturday.

As I move through the busyness of the next ten days I don’t want to forget the message of the trees:

“…You too have come into the world to do this, to easy, be filled with light, and to shine.”

May the unhurried rhythm that comes without effort to the trees, bushes and birds grow in those of us who aspire to entrust our lives to the care of the Light of the world who came to enlighten everyone and empower us to go easy, be filled with light and shine.

For the full text of Mary Oliver’s poem, see her anthology Thirst.

Go easy, be filled with light and shine!

The following Hymn of Divine Love by Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022) arrived in my email this morning.  Through embodied spiritual practices like yoga, moving meditation and body prayers, I have experienced the transformation he describes. Everything that was hurt, everything that once seemed to me “dark, harsh, shameful, maimed, ugly, irreparably damaged about my body,” has been transformed. The sagging places, the stretch marks, wrinkles and blemishes document the life I’ve lived. I am beloved in every part of my body,  just as I am.

My work is to pass this grace on so that the upcoming generations of young women and men will not live in fear and guilt or be ashamed of their bodies. That’s why I teach Christ-centered yoga, offer workshops on transforming your relationship with your body and other topics. In Christ we are free from shame, but too many Christians live their entire lives ashamed of some aspect of their physicality. I’m on a mission to change that!

Thanks be to God for Symeon’s wisdom that is a rich but neglected part of the Christian tradition.

Thanks be to God for the amazing grace of Christ that sets us free.

Thanks be to God for transformation worked in our lives to set us free.

And thanks be to God ahead of time for the freedom that will come through us to upcoming generations.

Hymn of Divine Love #15 by Symeon the New Theologian

We awaken in Christ’s body,
As Christ awakens our bodies
There I look down and my poor hand is Christ,
He enters my foot and is infinitely me.
I move my hand and wonderfully
My hand becomes Christ,
Becomes all of Him.
I move my foot and at once
He appears in a flash of lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous to you?
—Then open your heart to Him.
And let yourself receive the one
Who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
We wake up inside Christ’s body
Where all our body all over,
Every most hidden part of it,
Is realized in joy as Him,
And He makes us utterly real.
And everything that is hurt, everything
That seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably damaged
Is in Him transformed.
And in Him, recognized as whole, as lovely,
And radiant in His light,
We awaken as the beloved
In every last part of our body.

May each of us awaken to the radiance of God’s life living, moving and taking delight living through us today!

Amen.


We brought Miss Liberty Belle home on Saturday. Only 7 weeks old, she’s already reminding me of the ancient wisdom inherent in all living things.

Miss Liberty Belle - 7 weeks

People, animal, plants all need much of the same  basic things: food, water, sunshine, rest, companionship, space to spread out our wings and fly, but also time to withdraw and recover.

Most of all, we need love. John O’Donohue writes “Love is absolutely vital for a human life. For love alone can awaken what is divine within you. In love, you grow and come home to your self.” I suspect he’d say it’s true about other life as well. When we are loved, we feel at home within ourselves and secure when we venture out into the world.

So love will be an essential nutrient we feed our little lass over the days, weeks, months and years ahead. And our number one dog, her uncle Legend, will also be getting more focused time and attention. We’ve committed ourselves to daily morning and evening walks since he thrives on exercise, discipline and affection – in that order (Cesar Milan’s three basics for well behaved dogs).  With a new puppy competing for attention, he needs to know more than ever how much we love him.

Any of you who read my blog regularly know I place a premium on love. Without it, all our efforts to be well, stay fit, eat right and look our best will fail to give us what we really long for. I can’t count the number of women who’ve sat in my office and told me that their efforts to lose weight were mostly driven by their longing for love. They hope that by perfecting their external appearance (an impossible task since perfection is an impossible goal), they’ll finally attract the love they long for.

Bottom line: love begins with me. I must all open myself to what Henri Nouwen refers to as “the first love.” Nouwen says that the love we receive from other living beings (human and otherwise) awakens our dormant desire to be completely and unconditionally loved. But our great task is to realize that the love of others is not the ultimate source. The love we receive in them is part of the greater love of a Creator who created us in love, from love, to love and be loved. Love is the beginning and the end.

Legend and Liberty soaking in the love

And, love is what frees us to live with liberty. More on that topic in the days, weeks and months ahead. Until then, may you have eyes to see and willingness to receive that great love that is the source of all love. It’s all around you. You must be willing to look for it and accept it in the forms and packages it comes in – human and otherwise.

Last week I met a remarkable young woman named Kate who fears that God, her parents and friends won’t approve of her searching beyond what she’s known of him all her life to be the “only truth.” Yet she also fears staying in the safety of that belief system, of not following her innermost self and trusting her own capacity to understand her tradition in a bigger way–what my husband Dave calls the big “G” Gospel.

It takes courage to leave the safety of traditional ways of believing the gospel of Jesus Christ, just like it takes courage to leave home and go away to college. Yet doing so is an essential part of adult identity and faith development.

What does it really man to “believe” the good news that Jesus preached? As I read the resurrection story in the last chapter of the gospel according to Mark this morning I considered the meaning of “believe.”

What does belief look like in daily life? Is about knowing facts and information, cognitively assenting to ideology? My evangelical training emphasized correct doctrine as the key element of belief. Discipleship focused on studying topics like “know what you believe” and “know why you believe” rather than equipping me for transformation into a more loving, Christlike person.

At this point in my spiritual journey I think belief has more to do with how I live and how I love than anything else. Faith in Jesus Christ is reflected in my attitude, motivation and behavior more than in what I proclaim to be true about God, human nature, reality and other existential issues. Interestingly, the modern English word “belief” has it’s etymology in Old English and Germanic words reflecting the more personal nature of belief as “holding dear, esteeming and trusting.” Billy Graham, who’s been called the greatest evangelist of our time, once said that the greatest expression of belief isn’t cognitive assent but to “be love” in the world.

I can’t “prove” my interpretation via exegesis. Moreover, I don’t want or need to. Years of exegetical training and practice did much to equip my mind for the study of scripture. But it did little in terms of making me a more loving, Christlike person. Psychotherapy and contemplative Christ-centered practices have been the primary avenues the Spirit of God has used to free me from reactive, defensive, unloving ways of being in my life. Centering prayer in particular has been the greatest tool for being transformed by the renewing of my mind in Christ.

I’m grateful to stand with Kate and many other millennials who are searching outside the expressions of Christianity they were raised in. They need boomers like me to support them in their desire to deepen their connection to Christ through both traditional and non-traditional forms.

My prayer for Kate and others millennials doing the hard work of adult faith development comes from the apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus: according to the riches of God’s glory, may you be strengthened with power through God’s Spirit in your innermost beings, may Christ dwell in your hearts as you are being rooted and grounded in love, may you have power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, and be filled to all the fullness of God.

“Now to the one by whom the power at work within us is able to do abundantly far more than all that we can ask or imagine, to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”   (Ephesians 3.16-21)

A courageous, intelligent, creative and vulnerable 25 year old woman sat across from me this morning and reminded me who I am. Half my age but filled with the same eternal wisdom of God, her eyes filled with tears as she said, “When I met you and saw your gray hair, you became my role model. I don’t want to grow up afraid of aging, of my body changing, of getting old.”

She also spoke of her fears for her six year old cousin who knows all about her mother’s recent liposuction treatment.  And, about how glad she is that smart phones weren’t available when she was in puberty. “It was bad enough without Facebook, Twitter and other media plastering my mind with airbrushed, photo-shopped images. It’s so much worse now.”

At least one prominent Beverly Hills board certified plastic surgeon reports that “a sizable chunk of his Beverly Hills patients are in their 20s, raised by moms who thought Botox was just part of a normal beauty regimen, like a pedicure or a waxing. You see a line, you get it Toxed.”

Lord, have mercy!

21 years ago a breast cancer diagnosis at age 30 became a shocking wake up call to love the skin I’m in! It transformed my attitude about aging. My wrinkles document the tears of love and laughter I’ve been blessed to experience as I’ve grown older.

I earned these wrinkles!

I’m not immune to feeling negatively about aging. Like the wise woman that sat with me this morning, I too have my moments when old ruts of negative thinking sneak up on me.

These days, when an initial wave of  “I’m looking old” thoughts and feelings hits me as I look in the mirror,  I breathe and pray, “Lord, have mercy.” I recognize the feelings and thoughts are part of being a 51 year old woman who chooses not to color my hair or “tox” my lines in a culture where that is becoming increasingly common and expected. I allow the negativity to pass through me like a wave.

Then, I remind myself of the alternative: “I could be dead!”

Hmmmm….wrinkles or death? I think I’ll choose the wrinkles!

My young colleague and I cried this morning as we spoke of our shared passion to bring a better story about our women bodies to the upcoming generations. I told her the story an African woman name Leah told Eve Ensler as she interviewed women around the world about their bodies.  When Eve asked if Leah loved her body, she replied “My body? Love my body…of course I love my body. It is my body.” Leah goes on to point out how all the trees are different, they don’t compare themselves to one another. “Eve” Leah tells her,  “you’ve got to love your tree.

May the eternal wisdom of our loving Creator that Leah embodied and testified to, that inspired our tears this morning, break through the darkness of self-deprecation and shame that so easily entangle and set us free to love ourselves as God loves us.

May we have more faith in that incorruptible, immeasurable and infinite Love, than we do in the stories of industries that want to profit off our insecurities and self-loathing.

I love sweet peas. I love their delicate but strong blossoms, the way they fold in on themselves on one side and open up on another. I love their unpredictability–the way they weave up the fence, around the trellis or wildly splay out everywhere ignoring my effort to contain them. I love the variety of shapes and colors. I especially love their sweetness–along with jasmine and gardenias, they announce spring’s arrival.

the more you take, the more they give

I met a sister sweet pea lover who gave me yet another reason to love them. Like God who loves to love us without limits and yearns for love to blossom everywhere–the more you take, the more sweet peas give.

Sweet peas on the kitchen counter and dining room table, in the bedrooms and bathrooms. I can’t keep up with them. The more I cut, the more they produce. The more I take, the more they give. Even this morning, after several months of production, another bouquet.

Sweet Peas Everywhere

So it is with God’s love–the more I take, the more I get. My job is to take Love, to receive Love, to open my heart to Love wherever it appears, however it comes, whomever delivers it.

My twenty-four year marriage has been my greatest school of love. Like the peas, I can’t predict or control how my husband will love me. I want red sweet peas and spontaneous, romantic, weekend escapes. I get purple and white flowers and well planned vacations to high-end resorts that he gets great deals on using his internet search skills! I want variegated blossoms and the theater. I get beautiful solids, my laundry done on Saturdays and the bed made every morning. I open up to the real love he can give and let go of my agenda for what love “should” look like.

sweet peas straight from the vine (background)

My job is to take the love that comes, delight in it and be grateful for it, not waste precious energy trying to get red flowers to grow from purple seeds!

I open to the love as it comes, not guard my heart until I get the version of love I think I deserve. Not that I’m giving up hope that one day he’ll actually surprise me!

Spiritual Director Sr. Mary Ann Scofield once wrote that the most difficult thing of all is to take in how truly, deeply and unreservedly loved we are by God because it changes everything.

What will happen if I open my heart, take my guard down and let God love me?

The more I take, the more I’ll get!

I will be changed.

I will become more of the person I was created to be–made by Love, of Love, for Love. I will become a better Lover of God, of my husband, of my neighbor, of myself.

Being a great Lover is the only thing I know for sure is God’s will for me. All the other decisions of life fall into place when I focus on resting and trusting in this great love that changes everything because it changes me.