Unfailing love

It is ironic that I am not working now that my kids are in college. I worked through the summer, saving my vacation days to tack on at the end of my employment and I stopped working as they went back for their fall classes. Now that I could be considered a stay-at-home mom they are away. But parenting doesn’t end when kids go to college or enlist in the military, or get a job and move out. Even when I don’t see my kids often I can encourage them with cards, emails, texts, and the occasional phone call. One of my kids usually responds quickly, the other sometimes doesn’t respond. Without much prodding one tells me about classes, friends, activities. The other is less willing to divulge any news. Some days I wonder if it matters that I am trying to stay in touch but I know that the absence of any attempts would be noticed. I ask questions and then do my best to listen and to be open, not judging.

During the winter break each of the kids made a gift for someone else and it was a joy for me to be able to assist them. I helped to pick out the materials they needed and showed them how to do different things – using the sewing machine, staining a wooden board, cleaning the paint brushes. Their acceptance of my involvement was a gift to me! We spent time together working with our hands. They gained skills and confidence, and I gained time with them and a feeling of connection.

Sometimes when I am longing for connection with my kids I think of my relationship with God. I read devotions daily and scriptures often, and I am very involved with my church, but I don’t always take my prayers to a deeper level. When this realization comes to me I imagine that God is waiting for me to turn and seek God’s presence. Some days it is hard for me to accept the idea that God wants my attention and connection just as I am. I don’t have to do more or be more to be loved by God, and God loves me even when I’ve been absent for a while! God doesn’t say “what took you so long?” although I may be thinking that.

Reflecting on my relationship with God helps me to think about my relationships with my almost-adult kids. I am grateful for whatever time we spend together and I don’t need to interpret any lack of response as rejection. I can commit to reaching out with love, consistently, and being receptive to their response whenever and however it comes.

Lord, thank you for your example of unfailing acceptance and love. Amen.

Psalm 13:1, 5 – “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? . . . But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.” (NIV)

New names

My word for the year is love. Other words have come to mind – faith, hope, trust – but as the scriptures point out, “if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2.) Being confident that I am loved allows me to step out in faith. Drawing on love allows me to be patient with myself and others. Love is the path to forgiveness, and the way out of fear. Love is God shining in me, and through me out into the world.

You may have noticed that my last name is Love. That became my married name many years ago and although we later divorced I kept the name. I shared it with my kids, and Dr. Love has been an awesome name to have. Students and parents alike smile or laugh when they hear it. Store clerks and TSA workers comment positively about it. The play on words for my blog and book title has been fun.

This year, however, I am marrying John Van Der Karr and I am choosing to change my name again. It is important to me to signify this new phase in my life, to embrace this new beginning! Throughout the Bible people take on new names as a sign of God’s promises – Abram and Sarai became Abraham and Sarah; Jesus gave Simon a new name, Peter, when Simon met Jesus and became a disciple; after his conversion Saul became Paul. These are name changes that represent dramatic changes in the lives of these people, and a reminder for me that a wedding is the start of a dramatic change in life too. A marriage joins families, brings different groups and customs together, and reminds us to be steadfast in love throughout the ups and downs of our lives.

I like the symbolism of love being my word for the year in the same year that it no longer will be my legal name. My blog title will remain the same, as I don’t have to have the last name of Love to be Inspired by Love. And neither do you. What new name or word might you claim for yourself this year? Write it in the “comments” section below to share it with other readers and to let your light shine brightly. Go ahead! (You can always change it later. 🙂 )

Lord, thank you for being the living word in my life. Amen.

First day of winter

Sunrise was at about 7:20 this morning and sunset will be at 4:32 p.m. The day with the shortest amount of daylight in the northern hemisphere heralds the approach of longer days, although it will be months before warmer temperatures arrive. People in the northern hemisphere celebrate Christmas in the same season as the earliest Christians, and the theme of light overcoming darkness has this seasonal touch to it. I wonder how Christians in the southern hemisphere experience the theme of darkness at Christmas time. Do they revisit the Christmas story in June when they are having their winter solstice?

Of course, we can experience darkness any time of the year. Our hearts can be heavy with grief or fear at any season. Illness, homelessness, betrayal and disappointment can come at any time. The fact of God coming in human form to live among us is one we recall every time we come together to worship, and anytime, anywhere in prayer and praise, not only at Christmas. Just as there is no season specific to our experience of darkness, there is no season when the light of Christ is not present. Some days the light of God may seem like a barely discernible ember not strong enough to offer warmth, but we are assured that it is here. We have the ability – and the responsibility – to bring together our embers (or our flames – whatever the strength of our faith today) so that we can build a strong source of light and provide warmth and care to each other.

Dear Lord, fan the spark of light that is within me so that I can share it with others who need some extra light and warmth in the darkness. Amen.

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

Pushing the pause button

Pushing the pause button

“In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” Mark 1:35.

I am reading An Altar in the World, by Barbara Brown Taylor, a book given to me by my dear friend Carol. It is full of meaty phrases and ideas, such that as I read I am sticking my fingers between the pages that I want to go back and reread right away. “Wow,” I think, “that is great. I will come back to it as soon as I read this next amazing description!” By the time I stopped to go back I had read four more pages of pithy insight.

The irony here is that I was reading about the practice of paying attention, of being immersed in the moment, rather than looking past this present moment towards the next moment. Taylor describes this as a way of being reverent, and thereby honoring the people and things around us. Fortunately, I did go back and relish the points I wondered at, and I marked up the page so that I can go back and find them again more easily. It took a little time to do this, but not much.

Call it what you will – stopping to smell the roses, pushing the pause button, practicing reverence by paying attention – doing so this morning allowed me to soak in the thoughts that caught my attention rather than having them ricochet off me before I could grasp them and  hold them and truly appreciate them. I will not spend my whole day this way, pausing to see or hear and appreciate the people and things around me. I wouldn’t get out of my house and yard if I did! But it is good to pause for five or 10 minutes to soak up the rain of blessings that bombard me daily.

Thank you, God, for the wonders of your creation that stop us in our tracks. And thank you for people whose gifts to help us appreciate your creation all the more.

Changing plans

Changing plans

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29:11-12.

How important it is to stay flexible and fluid, especially when it comes to driving in winter! My plan for this morning was to pick up my son from the bus in New York City, spend time with him, and then hit the road to Maine where I will spend Thanksgiving with my “Maine man” and his kids. As of last night the impending nor’eater was putting a crimp in those plans, with its rain projected to turn to snow, steadily precipitating throughout the day and into tonight. I was thinking that it would be smarter to stay put today and make the 400 mile drive tomorrow, still arriving on Thanksgiving day.

The phone call last night, an update from my son about a mix-up with the bus ticket, meant that I’ll be driving to Philadelphia today to pick him up. Weather forecast: rain, no snow south of here. Good news! I’ll get to spend more time with my son, and Plan B (drive to Maine tomorrow) still is in place. No worries, no upsets, and (I hope) no accidents along the way.

I am well aware, however, of the saying “When we make plans, God laughs” so I know that my plans may have to change yet again. Like trees that bend in the wind but do not break, being both flexible and steadfast today will help me to weather this storm. I will pray for safety for everyone who is traveling to spend time with loved ones, whether their travels take them on plane, train, bus, car, boat, bike, or on foot.

Lord, today I will cherish the journey and the destination, blessing the strangers along the way as well as my loved ones at the end of the road. Amen.

A direct connection

A direct connection

“Word of God, speak, would you pour down like rain, washing my eyes to see your majesty, to be still and know that you’re in this place . . .” – from the song “Word of God Speak” by MercyMe

[This post was written Oct. 11, 2014] It is a dark and rainy morning in New Jersey. I have an unscheduled day and am enjoying a slow morning – reading the Bible, reading Anne Lamott, listening to the rain and a bird chirping. The rain is a gift, slowing me down and canceling my plans for yard work. I can be still for a while and let the beauty of nature and the love in the words sink into my heart. I thank God that I can pray right here where I am sitting, without having to download a new version of a prayer “app”, without having to sign in to my account, and without first having to charge my phone or tablet or other device. Prayer is an opportunity to connect with God and get my batteries charged, drawing on the food and power of God’s Word and Spirit. “Give us this day our daily bread” is for me today, “Give us this day our time with You, Lord, so that we can get grounded, centered, and ready to be compassion and action in the world.”

Lord, I praise you for your creation, for your nourishing rain, and for the direct connection of prayer. Amen.