Last year my niece Sara started the month of February off by vowing to post something she loved every day on Facebook. I thought it was a great idea and joined her. It sort of took on a life of its own, and eventually led to me beginning this blog. I missed the 28 days of Love Month for 2013, but thought I would re-post what I wrote in 2012. So here we go….Love Month Redux! Here are Days 1-14. (And thanks for my friend Sheila Foxworthy for recommending I keep a copy of this last year….right before she told me I needed to continue to write! I love my friends.)
Day 1 of Love Month – OK…..I am going to join my niece Sara Johnson and celebrate “Love Month” naming things or people I love every day. So day 1….I love the family I was born into. Knowing them all my life, I can assure you there is not a perfect one in the lot…..but still they make me smile. I love that in a family of strong opinions, we respect that we each have the ability to make our own choices and our own mistakes. And I love that I like them all….most of the time…..and know that in good times and in bad, they are there. And I love that if I am ever doing something that hurts someone else, or myself, they would not tell me I am doing the right thing….but still they would love me!
Day 2 of Love Month….I love that I’m a runner. I know, it makes me giggle, too. I am not fast, I have no endurance, I am not graceful, I don’t really enjoy it when I am doing it or think I will ever get that first lap done, but yet I run. Who we think we are, be it good or bad, means nothing. We are what we do. A runner, a singer, a kind person, a critical spirit, a good parent, a bad parent, a good employee or a bad one, a cheat, or a person of integrity…what you do is who you are. Want to change who you are, you have to change what you do. And sometimes it is hard! But I love that the concept is quite simple!
Day 3 of Love Month – I love kindness in people. I remember years (and years) ago I had been up all night with a terrible stomach virus, had driven myself to urgent care in the morning and realized on the way home that it was a dumb idea to be driving. Got home, but couldn’t get the Gatorade, which the doctor said was my best chance for keeping down any liquid. I called my friend Chris North and she brought over not only Gatorade, but ginger ale, saltines and bendy straws so I wouldn’t have to hold up my head as I drank. Chris has probably forgotten all about this by now, but I still think about her every time I use a bendy straw. The best kind of kindness meets known needs, but also meets those needs you didn’t even know you had!
Day 4 of Love Month – I love great teachers. I believe horrible teachers, those who really don’t like their students and douse the excitement of learning, are evil. But the lessons of good teachers last a lifetime. Take, for example, my high school teacher Arvilla L. Brewer. So OK, I hated her class. My eyes still roll back in my head if I hear about the Phoenicians. But she was also my Model UN coach and my friend. She was always the grownup….we jokingly called her Mom, but she was more like the cool big sister. She liked us….and liked being with us….and I think from her I inherited my love of the world. The knowledge that while the US is a great country, it is not the only great country, and while the world is big these other countries should matter to us. I also think that from her I inherited the ability to look at all things a bit more open mindedly….and not be so quick to think the conventional is always the best. My life definitely wouldn’t be as rich, relaxed and happy without the lessons she taught me. And whether it is someone’s occupation or not, that is the best kind of teacher.
Day 5 of Love Month – I love pastors and politicians. I think they have a lot in common. I believe most start out with pure hearts…..wanting to help people and make a difference in the world. How disillusioning it must be when they encounter us, a mob waiting for signs of their failures and criticizing every nuance of their actions (often wrongly and without truth to back it up.) We sometimes force them into isolation, keep them on the defensive, and impede their ability to lead. No wonder they often lose focus of their goals and plans. In our country of freedom, I think we are to choose our leaders of church and state carefully and then trust the process of democracy. We need to know when to question and when to just follow and keep our mouths shut. This I know…hateful venomous criticism seldom brings forth positive change. It is unbecoming to us, to our church, to our country and to our God.
Day 6 of Love Month – I love opinionated people. Hang out with me for long (or read the commentary of my Facebook friends) and you will surely run into someone who will offend you, but yes, these are the people I love. I’ve found that those without strong opinions usually have weak and lazy minds, and not only don’t change the world, but are rather dull besides. Oh, and I am not talking about the far end of the spectrum….the people who spout opinions only to hear themselves speak. I don’t like them at all. I like those with opinions who listen to others, consider what they have to say, and even change their minds sometimes. The smart people. The growing people. The people who really do want the best for our world and are brave enough to speak up. Because there are times when they will not win popularity contests and they will see many eyerolls in their direction. Sometimes by me. But I appreciate opinions, even when I don’t share them. Because at least they are trying to figure it all out and are putting it out there for some input!
Day 7 of Love Month. I love catching glimpses of true love. I’m always suspect of big displays of PDA, done more so others will “look at us in love” instead of people really having a connection with each other. Instead I watch for eyes meeting, hand holding, simple caresses, little kindnesses done as a need is recognized because they were paying attention. I love seeing two grownups together, as adult partners, not as parent and pouty child. I love when people not only love their partner, but cherish them. Someone made me promise them a long time ago that I wouldn’t let love be enough in a relationship….that I would hold out until that person also cherished me. I definitely didn’t realize when I made that promise just how long that would take, but it is still what I am waiting for. Love isn’t about the grand gestures. It’s about the I Corinthians 13 checklist. Love is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not proud, does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Those are the grand gestures of true love that last.
Day 8 of Love Month – I love people who march to the beat of a different drummer. The first time I remember someone describing me that way, it was not meant as a compliment. It was meant as “Bless your heart, you’re just not normal like the rest of us.” And the comment hit the target and hurt me for longer than I care to admit. Until I realized I didn’t really think their drummer was very good. And marching bores me after a while…. I prefer to sway, and strut and dance, too. So they can have their boring drummer….I’m following the one from NC A&T. And you are welcome to join me. Or find one of your own!
Day 9 of Love Month – I love a good competitor…..and a good winner and a good loser. Seeing people of excellence compete at anything always captivates me. While in the heat of a game, I absolutely hate to lose and nothing is more important….but when it is over, it was just a game. Winning is good and winning is fun…but it’s not really healthy when winning is all we know. Not a lot of time to practice humility. To give it your all and come out short, is still something to be proud of. To not give it your all and win, should probably diminish the glow of victory a bit. But to not give it your all and lose, ahhhhh….there is a great opportunity to learn. So a toast to those who take a chance and play the game and risk being the loser. And an eyeroll to those who stand on the sidelines and criticize and never play the game, and to those who take credit for a game they never played. (Yea to all of the boys in blue….you played a good game! To the Blue Devils who won and to my Tarheels…..who had the cutest shoes.)
Day 10 of Love Month – I love someone who is always looking for an opportunity to help others. I have the desire, but often walk too quickly through life and with tunnel vision (as many of my friends know, I can walk right by and not realize it is you I am passing.) But some not even notice those people around them, they notice needs. On more than one occasion I have been to WalMart with Debbie Childers Hartman, gotten into the store, turned around and realized she is nowhere to be found. I now know to go back to the parking lot. She will be the one helping the elderly lady put her groceries in the car and waiting to take her cart for her. A tiny gesture, but one of those that makes a stranger feel that they are not alone in the world. One of those random acts of kindness that are are more than a fad….they give legs to our heart.
Day 11 of Love Month – I love people who eat their cake. The indictment behind “wanting your cake and eating it too” has always been lost on me. I can’t conceive of a better use for really good cake. To have it and not eat it….we miss out on the very best part of it! Likewise is keeping treasures to be used on special occasions, but then never finding the special occasion quite worthy. I’ve had things that I have held as so special…I kept them in a drawer, gazed lovingly at them but never used them as they are intended…until one day they rot or break or don’t fit and become a frustrated memory. They had become like gods, while they were only just really good things. Things that used would have made any occasion special. We need to take out our treasures and use them. We need to eat the cake. While too much cake is bad for us, there are days when we should indulge in a piece and enjoy every bite. But not the whole cake by ourselves. That will make us sick and take away the pleasure that comes from savoring.
Day 12 of Love Month – I love when people pray, then open their eyes. Too often we forget to make what I believe is the most important commitment in praying…. that we will then watch God answer. It’s the thing that changes us. God does not need us to pray….He can handle things quite well on his own. I think there is evidence that God’s people can cause a change in direction, but for the most part I believe God wants us to pray, to watch and to learn. God refers to himself as a jealous God, and it is not because He has a personality disorder. He wants our attention. And it makes sense….if we don’t give him our attention, just how great do we really think He is? So pray and watch God at work. With the answer to a simple prayer (and every prayer is answered) He shows us who He is and it can provide year after years of very rich lessons that can also show us who we are. If you aren’t seeing an answer to a prayer you have prayed, maybe it is a slower answer or a different answer than you are expecting…and just maybe you’re stumbling around with your eyes closed.
Day 13 of Love Month – I love when people love the people I love well. Appreciating them for what they are, but also with vision and commitment to encourage them to be their best. For an entertainer, living with their biggest fan would certainly be more pleasurable than living with their harshest critic. But if that fan also steers them toward the best material for their career and away from the temptations that can take them off track, it can make all the difference. The difference between a downward spiral and another awe-inspiring performance. When it comes down to it, the entertainer alone is responsible for the quality of the show. The best, however, seem to know the right people to surround themselves with to get to greatness. As we know from the sometimes lengthy awards show speech!
Day 14 of Love Month – I love being single. (That has to be it….what else first comes to mind on Single Awareness Day?) While it does have its downsides (such as the nausea that appears every time I have to go to a social event by myself), there are so many great things about it too. It’s caused me to become quite independent. Others may think that comes naturally to me, and in ways it does, but being raised in a large family interdependence is probably more of what I am used to. It’s caused me to conquer a lot of fears, some of them kicking and screaming. It’s allowed me to be selfish, yet also given me time to realize that I don’t want me to live my life that way. Most of all, when it seems like no one else is around that understands or cares, it has caused me to depend on God. (Which sometimes I do kicking and screaming, and with a few glares cast His way.) But once I submit to the concept, I remember that I am never alone or misunderstood.
Some of you who are in relationships may say “Hey, it’s not so different here.” And that would be right. There is always a part of all of us that operates independently and requires that we choose to love each other. Actively. Daily. You can’t depend on other people for your happiness or expect they love you exactly how you want them to, but you can appreciate them for who they are and love them anyway. Love is always more than a feeling….it’s a verb. And you can only control how you love that other person….not how they love you.
So happy Valentines Day to each and every one of you, whether you are single or in a relationship (the pure and the complicated.) Bring the contentment to the day yourself, even if your Valentine doesn’t play the game your way….and let’s all celebrate the beautiful gift called love!