A Letter from Cinderella to Peter Pan

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Cinderella

Letter From Cinderella to Peter Pan

Dear Peter,

We have now been on three dates. I loved our time flying to Never Never Land. (I especially liked it the second time, when Wendy didn’t tag along.) Flying with you was so romantic. My heart has been fluttery for days. I must admit that I got my hopes up.

I have given you all the right hints and flirty moves. But today when I texted you, it took you two hours to text me back!

So Peter, you need to get your act together. Either you want me or you don’t. I am beautiful and a great catch and UNDERNEATH IT ALL I AM A PRINCESS!!!

The bottom line, Peter, is that you need to GROW UP!

Sincerely,

Your Lady in Waiting

Cinderella

Letter From Peter Pan to Cinderella

Dear Cinderella,

Let me give a you a peek into my heart. In my world, people expect really intense commitment really fast. This scared me. So I habitually stayed in the “friend zone” with girls…spending lots of time with them and getting them to like me so I could feel good. I was afraid of getting out of the friend zone because according to my culture, that meant I should be ready to get married.

I would much rather stay a boy than to face this much pressure. I was very stunted in my dating life. I wasn’t really growing up.

I finally decided that my rules were not working well for me, so I took a plunge into the dating pool. I have gone out on some dates to get to know people, and even to challenge myself to get out of the friend zone.

One lady had seven midgets living with her. I found that to be a little strange, so I decided to move on. Another one was sleeping the whole time. I could tell she wanted me to kiss her to wake her up, but I was not ready to kiss someone that I hadn’t talked to yet. Plus she was sleeping with her mouth open. Awkward.

You have been my favorite so far. You are beautiful and strong, you love animals, and you have a great singing voice. You’re a lot taller than me, but I can work with that.

Cinderella, here is the problem. I feel so much PRESSURE from you and all of these other girls. The I Kissed Dating Goodbye culture taught me that I should only date someone if I know I am going to marry them. This put enormous amounts of stress even on a first date. It has scared all of us men out of even wanting to date anyone at all.

When you say to me “either you want me or you don’t” that makes me feel backed against a wall. I DO like you, very much, but I need good time with you to really know whether we are a good match or not.

I am not into dating casually, but I am into dating slow. Can you see the difference?

Sincerely,

Peter

P.S. I think you left a shoe at my place.

Letter From the Fairy Godmother to Cinderella and Peter

Dear Cinderella and Peter,

Oh my sweet dear little naive funny human children,

Cinderella came to me in tears asking for advice, so I thought I would write to both of you. Navigating dating can be as difficult for humans as turning pumpkins into carriages.

Cinderella, you had no father figure growing up. (You also had an evil mother figure. Like almost every Disney character. But I digress…)

You have been in the ashes for so long, berated by people telling you you are not beautiful, until you told that to yourself. You have longed for someone to sweep you up out of those ashes and make you the princess you know that you are on the inside.

I can understand this, sweetie. You have had a hard life. In your fairy tale world, romantic love is the happy ending, the thing that rescues the girl. No wonder you want someone to love you.

But can you understand how unhealthy it is to believe you only have worth when a man tells you you are valuable?  It seems like you often date someone just to prove you are valuable, something you weren’t told enough as a little girl. You are using him if you do this.

You might want to go on a few less dating websites and few more counseling sessions. You need some healing.

Part of the curse in Genesis was that a woman would “long for” a man. I know in my younger days, I would long for romantic love with every sinew in my body. I thought it was the answer.

The truth is, you are already intrinsically valuable. No one can take that away from you, and no one can prove it to you. The more you know that now, the less you will demand men to show you your value, which will be especially life giving if you get married. It will put less pressure on your husband and allow a more healthy love to grow between you.

Peter, I can understand your points. The pressure from Cinderella is not helping anything, it is just scaring you. It is way too early in the relationship to put that kind of pressure on.

On the other hand you are not totally innocent. You have led Wendy and Tinker Bell on for years when you know you are not interested in either of them romantically, and I don’t want to see that happen with Cinderella.

Like you said, you need time to gather good information about Cinderella regarding whether or not you are a good match. The trick here is that after a good amount of time and lots of good information, if you do come to the conclusion that you are not a good match, you need to set her free. She deserves that. Even if it hurts her at first, it will be better in the long run. Don’t hold on to her because you are afraid of hurting her, and DON’T hold on to her just because it feels good to have someone like you. You are using her if you do this.

If you do realize that you would be great together and that you really can see a future with her, it’s time to take the next step and commit.

There are special fears that come up here because you also did not have a good father (or sometimes mother) figure. You have wanted to stay a boy because deep down you don’t really know if you have what it takes to be a man.

A lot of identity questions come up when there is a possibility for commitment. Am I good enough for her? Can I provide for her? Will I feel suffocated? Am I ready for children?  

Commitment and responsibility go hand in hand for you, which makes the thought of getting serious a little more scary for you than for Cinderella.

It will help you grow up if you believe in yourself more. The more you believe you have what it takes as a man to be responsible, the less scared you will be of commitment.  Ask God to show you how proud he is of you and how he sees you as a man, things you might not have heard from your father.

My advice for you? Talk to Cinderella about these fears as they come up. Allow these conversations to help you navigate whether you are a good match or not.

Cinderella, same advice. When you have that insatiable need to be loved come up, talk to him about what you are going through rather then pushing him against a wall. Don’t command him to fill that desire to be loved in you, but converse with him about your struggles in this area.

To both of you, don’t feel like you have to hold in your feelings forever, making it nebulous and scary. If you are attracted and wanting to learn more but scared of going too fast, just say that. It is much better than staying silent. Set a precedent from the beginning of your friendship to be open with each other. Whether you end up together or not, good communication will be invaluable.

Cinderella, commit to praying for Peter’s insecurity when it comes to his identity, and Peter, pray that Cinderella will know she is beautiful intrinsically.

Both of you, remember who you are by looking in the face of your True Papa and letting him tell you every day.

As Donald Miller says in his book Scary Close (my second favorite of his next to Bibbity Bobbity Boo for Beginners)

“I don’t know if there’s a healthier way for two people to stay in love than to stop using each other to resolve their unfulfilled longings and, instead, start holding each other closely as they experience them.”

Sincerely,

Your Fairy Godmother

P.S. This letter went so well that I am thinking about quitting this Fairy Godmother stuff, which doesn’t pay well, and becoming a Life Coach. You might have a fee next time. Just a heads up.

***This post was inspired by a teaching of Dr. John Coe

Playing With The Hand We’ve Been Given

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Cards

Glennon Doyle gives us this remarkable bit of wisdom in her post called The Lie and the Truth about Marriage.

Love Does Not Just Happen. It’s Forged.

Our romantic love drenched culture tells us that you fall in love. Falling is not something you do by choice. It happens to you. Falling is even kind of a mistake, something that you didn’t control. It implies happenstance. It hints at destiny. Falling is euphoric and dreamy. It starts out exhilarating and makes you feel alive.

But falling ends. Often abruptly and with a lot of pain.

Forging is such a different verb than falling. Forging’s definition is to form by heating and hammering; to beat into shape. Forging involves taking something that is broken and making it beautiful by putting energy into it time after time. Every day it is work. Some days it is a fight. You have to go against the grain and challenge your own comfort in order to forge.

I read this salient sentiment, loved it, and put it in my mental file marked things to remember if and when I finally get married. I didn’t think I would have to use it sooner than that.

But I went on a radio show recently and mentioned the love isn’t something that happens to you idea. Later in the interview, I talked about how even though singleness was difficult, I was fighting hard to make my life beautiful.

A listener emailed me and said something to the effect of “maybe the work of the single person is not to forge love for a partner, but to forge a beautiful life even when life is nothing like we expected it to be.” This resonated deeply with me.

We can then reword Glenon’s phrase to say

A beautiful life does not just happen. It is forged.

I am in a season in which I am forming my life by beating and heating hammering. For over a decade, I had what most people would call a dream job: traveling all over the world to beautiful places like Hawaii and Italy and Switzerland and Brazil to play music and teach. Even though I love traveling and I love playing music and teaching, I realized it was not going to be sustainable much longer. I was going on these beautiful adventures, and I was grateful for that,  but I was always alone. I would come home to roommate situations much like every roommate situation in America: people I barely ever saw. And I had tons of free time on my hands to write, again an alone experience. I was deeply, crazily lonely.

Like most of us, I thought that the fault of my loneliness was my status as a single. Some of that was justified: married people, especially those with children, simply do not spend as much time alone as I do. They have different problems, but being alone 80% of their day is not one of them. 

After many, many years waiting day after day after freaking day for my partner to finally come to me, I realized that I was going to have to find a family some other way, or else I would be miserable. I realized that I can’t get a husband the same way I got my degree. No matter how hard I worked at it, it just was not happening for me to get married. Those were not the cards I was handed. They might be someday, but not yet. I realized that my present life had been a series of moments where I longed for a future life. What kind of life was that? The waiting had taken over. Something had to change.

I had learned from my al- anon meetings (for family members of alcoholics) the life altering adage that the entire group repeats every week: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I took a good hard look at my life, and tried to figure out what I couldn’t change. I can’t make anyone love me. I can’t will myself to get married unless someone chooses me. I can’t have children without a partner unless I adopt.

What could I change: I can find work that is not so lonely. I can spend time and energy and even money to get as emotionally and spiritually healthy as possible. I can figure out ways to have children in my life even if they are not my own children, and can start organizing my life in such a way that I could potentially adopt. I can put myself in situations where I could meet potential partners but try my hardest not to be devestated if they are not interested romantically. I can minister more consistently to spiritual seekers, something that has brought life to me for years but has been sporadic. I can live and be in fellowship with people who deeply care about intentional community who can be kind of a surrogate family for me. 

And so I changed everything. I started working at an afterschool program, giving up most of my traveling and making less money in order to have human contact and moved onto a community farm. A year later, I took a further step my moving to San Diego in order to work with an organization that centers their lives around intentional community. (betacommunities.com.) I started volunteering to tutor and teach dance and music classes to teens at a refugee center.

My plan is to start a similar team in Asheville, North Carolina where my brother and sister in law live so that I can continue to live in community, continue to minister to at risk teens and spiritual seekers, and to be near my nephews and niece so I can have blood children whose lives I am deeply involved in. I will not travel as much, which is hard for me, but I will have consistency in community, something I desperately need. (If anyone might be interested in participating in a team like this, let me know.)

This move wasn’t easy. I had to give up an impressive, fun job where people don’t know me but are impressed by me. That felt good, but it wasn’t valuable in the long run. I had to give up a life of familiarity in a hip town with dear friends. But sacrifices needed to made for me to forge a new life. 

We live in a society that is obsessed with comfort and independence, which can often lead to isolation. If we were left to bob around in the ocean of singleness, it would be very easy for us to end up in jobs we don’t like, living with roommates we barely know, going to churches that may look like community but where one on one relationships aren’t invested in, watching TV and diving into Facebook to ease our deep hunger for contact. That is the path of least resistance, and eventually we might drown in that reality.

We need to go against the grain. We need to swim against the waves to the shore of interdependence. 

We need to stop asking for a good life to fall on us and start trying to forge a good life.

Cheryl Strayed says “You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you’re holding.”

And so God, give us the serenity to accept the hand that we have been given, but to do everything in our power to play the hell out of those cards.

Everlasting Love

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To all of my friends on Valentine’s Day….may you remember how loved you are today.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” -Jeremiah 31:3
“If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn…even there your hand will guide me.” -Psalm 139-7 & 8.

lyrics

I have loved you I have loved you with an everlasting love
I have loved you I have loved you with an everlasting love

I mended you together and I hemmed you into me
When you were made in the secret place
I loved you since your first breath I will love you to your last
From the cradle to the grave

I have always loved you deep and wide
Like the east to the west low and high
And I will always love you deep and wide
Like the east to the west low and high

If you make your bed in the depths love
If you make your bed in the depths
Even there I’ll be with you always
If you rise on the wings of the dawn settle on the far sea
If you’re there that’s where I’ll stay

And oh love take strength keep walking
You can lose it all but you’ll never lose this one thing
And oh love take strength keep walking
You can lose it all but you’ll never lose never lose
My love

credits

from Sing Over Me, released 02 December 2013
Kate Hurley- Piano, vocals
Dave Wilton- guitars
Keith Thomas- Cello

Six (Totally Lame) Reasons Why It’s Good To Be Single On Valentine’s Day (Repost)

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Hey friends! I thought I would repost this from last year because it still makes me giggle.

By the way, if you would like to try out the first few chapters of my book Cupid is a Procrastinator: Making Sense of the Unexpected Single Life for free, you can download it on noisetrade.

Click here to download the first few chapters. 

On to the post!

It’s almost Valentine’s Day—again. Reminders are everywhere: People kissing in public more often than usual. Co-workers gushing about the surprise dates their spouses are planning. Facebook is laden with people professing undying love for their new girlfriend, their husband of 20 years, or even their favorite dog. (I wonder if these people think they’re off the Valentine’s Day hook because of a post that took them 35 seconds to write.)

You are probably thinking something like, I would rather clean all the bathrooms in Grand Central Station with a toothbrush than be single on Valentine’s Day.

But wait. Let’s be optimistic and think of all the reasons it totally ROCKS TO BE SINGLE on this most cherished “lovers” holiday of the year.

Reason #1—We don’t have to celebrate what is a very, very confused holiday….

You can read the rest of this post at the really great online magazine Single Matters…

Click here to read the rest of the post.

Three Steps for Singles to Build Their Own Family Part II: Being a Part of a Community

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Side note: my book Getting Naked Later is now being published by a major publisher, Harvest House, under the new title Cupid is a Procrastinator: Making Sense of the Unexpected Single Life. The new book has a book study in it that would be a great way to build community with other single friends.  Buy the book as a gift for yourself or a friend for Valentine’s Day!

Click here to read reviews (under the self published title.)

Click here to buy the new book.

In my last post, we looked at how singles can build our own family by giving ourselves to others. Today we are going to look at another way to build our own family: being a part of a community.

To illustrate how powerful community is, I want to look at the life of St. Patrick. This famous saint understood that the Gospel is beautifully communicated through family, whether a traditional family or a body of believers.

According to the book The Celtic Way of Evangelism, Patrick was an Englishman in the fifth century who was sold into slavery to Ireland when he was sixteen. He escaped after six years and returned to Ireland. Many years later, he came back to Ireland to bring the good news to the people who once held him captive.

Patrick decided to try something different than the Roman model, which looked like people who already believe come to church and listen to a priest. Patrick would travel with a small group of believers and ask the leaders of a an Irish community if they could set up camp near the town center.

Patrick’s small group of people, which would include singles, marrieds, religious leaders, normal citizens, and artists, would live in a shared space together. They would eat together on a regular basis and worship together. They would attempt to learn a lot about the culture and befriend people, praying for them, and being  part of the greater community.

They would invite their new friends into the missional community for meals and, if they were ready, worship times. The people were not told that they had to believe before they belonged. Patrick and his community brought about a message that said “you belong even before you believe.”

If you were part of Patrick’s core community, you were paired up with an anamchara which is translated as “soul friend.” These pairs would listen to, counsel, and challenge each other.

What were the results of this new way of doing things? Patrick and his peopled planted at about 700 churches. Within Patrick’s lifetime, thirty to forty of Ireland’s 150 tribes considered themselves Christians. Quite impressive numbers considering there were almost no Christians in Ireland before Patrick came.

Community is powerful. It allows you to feel like you are a part of a family, something singles desperately need. But even more importantly, it shows the world the love of Jesus. As the old song says they will know we are Christians by our love.

Here are some steps to take towards community…

Step 1: Ask yourself if your “independent” life is worth it.

This is the world most Americans have created to keep ourselves as comfortable as possible: we wake up and turn on the radio so we don’t have to think. We eat our cereal alone so we don’t have to cook. We drive to our jobs so we don’t have to interact. We nod to our roommates when we get home and hole ourselves in our rooms so we don’t have to invest. We put fences up so we don’t have to connect. We participate in social networking so we don’t have to communicate anything deep. We check our iphones as often as possible to saturate our minds with information so we don’t have to contemplate. We watch our televisions so we don’t have to feel. And in these days that blur into months that blur into lifetimes, we are incredibly comfortable. But we are also incredibly unhappy and lonely.

Ask yourself, is my independence and comfortability worth living a life without community?

Step 2: Look for a healthy place to be in community.

If the answer to step one is no, it’s time to start looking for community. In my own search, I have ended up living on two farms that were intentional communities, and other organizations that are built around missional community. (Jacob’s Springs in Boulder, CO,  Beta Communities where I now live in San Diego who actually pattern themselves after Patrick’s way of evangelism,  Innerchange in San Francisco, and YWAM all over the place.) These were situations in which I actually lived in the same house or farm with other people who have committed to live life, eat meals, and worship together.

If that is a little too much for you, look for churches where there are very strong cell groups put in place. If you go to a big church but never go to a small group you run the risk of thinking you have authentic community when all you really have is a place that you go to listen to a sermon and have surfacey conversations about how cute your new shoes are. God’s desire for family runs much deeper than that.

Step 3: Figure out ways for you and your friends to foster community, especially if there is nothing yet in place where you live.

Start a book study  that will bond you with a group of people. Start a small group with your church, either incorporating other singles or a mix of people of different family backgrounds and age groups. In those groups, go consider going beyond bible studies by asking good questions about each other’s lives and dreams and frustrations. Create a space where people can be vulnerable.

Something as simple as people talking about the high and low points of their weeks or letting one person tell 15 minutes of their life story each week fosters a feeling of community.

Other ideas that go beyond church are to start a community garden so you can meet your neighbors. Or you can start a weekly potluck, even one with no bible study attached to it, where you can invite friends and people who don’t yet know Jesus so you can build good relationships with them.

Personally, I would rather have covenant than independence. I’d rather make meals that take time and effort with my friends than eat a bowl of cereal, go to my room, and watch YouTube videos alone. I’d rather have a house that is full of love and companionship with a few dirty dishes in the sink than a perfectly ordered, spotless house with no one in it.

I’d rather have family.

It’s not good for us to be alone. No matter how much freedom we have when we are alone, it is not good. God himself said that.

It is good for us to be in a family, even if we have to build our own.

Three Steps for Singles To Build Their Own Family (Part I: Giving Yourself to Others)

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In this post and the next one, we are going to look at some ways that singles can build their own family. Today we are going to explore the idea of giving ourselves to others. Here are a few steps to get us on our way…

Step 1: Lift your eyes up to the mountains (Psalm 121:102) and away from your navel.

As singles, it is tempting to focus on ourselves and on our lack of love and family. We think about love, we talk about love, we read about love, we listen to love songs, we watch movies about love. No wonder we are semi-obsessed with the idea that romantic love is what will fill our insatiable desire for value and worth.

On one hand God is incredibly gracious towards our pain. He doesn’t question or downplay the difficult process we are walking through as singles. He knows that a desire for a companion comes from an incredibly deep place, and he validates how hard that is for us.

On the other hand, he knows that wallowing in our loneliness on a regular basis is destructive to our well being. Even more importantly, it distracts us from being our best, beautiful self to a world that desperately needs the love that we have to give.

In the book Singled Out, John Stott says,“The greatest danger [singles] face is self-centeredness. We may live alone and have total freedom to plan our own schedule, with nobody else to modify it or even give us advice. If we are not careful, we may find the whole world revolving around ourselves.”

It is important that we start doing the hard work of thinking about things other than our love life or lack thereof. We need to take active steps towards giving ourselves to others.

Step 2: Determine to understand God’s heart towards the lonely people that are around you and the poor throughout the world.

A few years ago, I did an exercise that shook me out of my self-absorbed bubble and made me realize how deeply God cares about the poor. I was listening to a teaching on biblical justice by Rob Morris, founder of Love146, a wonderful organization that fights child exploitation. He asked us to flip through the bible for ten minutes and write down every verse we found about loving the poor, the outcast, the orphan, or similar sentiments.  He asked us not to use a concordance or go to verses we already knew, but to just skim the pages.

I flipped to the Psalms and thought that maybe I should go somewhere else, because of course the Psalms were all about worship and wouldn’t have anything about biblical justice. But the first verse I read was “Blessed is he who considers the poor; the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble” (Psalm 41:1.) I kept reading through the Psalms and found verses about the poor everywhere.

It made sense that they were everywhere, because there are about 2,000 verses on this topic. It is one of  the most talked about topics in the Bible. I have never looked at the bible the same way again. Verses about taking care of the poor are everywhere I look.

If the God that I love is this passionate about loving the lonely, maybe I would be wise to for me to be passionate about it as well. 

After your read this post, consider doing this exercise yourself, either with friends or on your own. You will be amazed at what you find.

Step 3: Pick one or two causes that you will devote yourself to.

I know there are a million causes that want your resources. A million different ministries vying for your attention. It can be overwhelming to hear all of the statistics. Sometimes you don’t know where to look. You don’t know if you can make a difference, so you don’t look anywhere. You look away.

But behind these causes are real people with real faces and real voices and real senses of humor and real tears.

My advice for you is to prayerfully choose one or two of these causes and be passionate about it for the rest of your life. Learn about your cause. Introduce yourself to the people that are behind that cause. Find out what you and your friends can do to make a difference.

Don’t just feed at a soup kitchen, come out from the serving line and sit and eat with the precious people you have served. Don’t just give money to an organization that fights child exploitation, find out how to write to the kids in the safe home and get to know them.

Shane Claiborne says in his book, The Irresistible Revolution, “What our world is desperately in need of [is] lovers, people who are building deep, genuine relationships with fellow strugglers along the way, and who actually know the faces of the people behind the issues they are concerned about.”

Over the last years since doing the poor verse exercise, much of my life has been spent thinking about and acting on taking care of the poor. The two issues most dear to me are homeless travelers and inner city youth. I have done outreaches all over the country to bring love to traveling people, especially new agers. I have taught music classes and made CDs for homeless youth. I have chosen to be “homeless” for 3 days to understand what my friends go through. I have played music for homeless church services and with homeless in the park and for homeless funerals. I have done advocacy work with homeless women, helping them find jobs and housing and medical help.

I just moved to San Diego to live in a missional community (beta communities.org) and I also plan to teach music classes to teenage refugees. I am so excited about this. I don’t have my own children, but I can give love to these precious souls.

These things have become some of the deepest joys of my life. They don’t exactly fill the void that I feel because I don’t have a traditional family, but they bring me joy and meaning in a different way. I desperately need to be less lonely, and so do they. But I had to take the initiative for these things to happen.

In conclusion,  you can’t really control your love life or lack thereof. But you can control the love that you put out into the world.

As Mother Teresa put it, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.”

Let’s remember that we belong to each other. Let’s love other people enough to remind them that we belong to each other. Maybe then we would finally have some peace, even if we don’t yet have the traditional family we’ve always wanted.

A Love-Hate Letter to Christmas

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Dear Christmas,

I am writing this letter to tell you how I feel. I have been bottling up these emotions for most of my adult life. It is time to show up and tell my truth to you.

To put it bluntly: I love you and I hate you.

The early years with you were so memorable. We would get together with my mom and make wheat-germ and whole-wheat cookies in your honor. (Just because you were in the room didn’t mean she was going to give up her health fanatic ways.)

We would go with my dad to cut trees together, a memory I still hold close to my heart now that he’s gone.
When I was a teenager, Christmas, we were so mischievous with each other. Every year I would get the big box of presents from Aunt Susan. My parents were divorced then, so it was my responsibility to wrap her presents for the family. Inevitably, Aunt Susan would give my brother Will really nice pairs of jeans, and I would get shorts sewn together to a tank top like a 90s teenage onesie. We would wrap the jeans and write on the tag that Aunt Susan gave them to me. Sometimes we’d even give the onesie to my brother. We would laugh. In fact, we were laughing all the way.

But then I started getting older. College passed, and I still didn’t have a family of my own. The gift of a family was still there, wrapped with a bow, under the tree. But I wasn’t allowed to open it yet. For years, my anticipation would grow like a child on Christmas Eve. “Maybe it will be this year!” I would think. But years passed, and that present was still there, unopened. I grew from excitement to frustration to barely even caring any more.

During that season I would go to my brother and sister-in-law’s house for Christmas since they were the closest thing I had to my own family. Will and I would put on puppet shows for my nephews and niece, complete with Latino accents, while singing No Tacos For Christmas. The kids would belly laugh for a full hour. I loved it because I loved them. But I also kind of hated it because it made me want my own kids so much.

Years passed. You sang “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” to me over and over and over again. And then you would sing it some more. On the radio, in the mall, on TV. “Please, please get a new song!” I would yell at you. It drove me crazy. That’s when I really started to hate you.
But then you would quietly sing “Silent Night” to me, candles lit, with all our friends around, and it would never get old. I would start to love you again.

Every year, I would love your season, because I had friends to be with and parties to go to and concerts to put on.

I would love thinking about the incredible miracle of the incarnation—that the God who could not be contained by eternity placed himself in a little baby so we could hold him close to our hearts.

I loved that. So much. It gave me hope. It made me realize I wasn’t alone.

And in that space, I would almost love you again. But then your actual day would come, and every single time it would make me feel so lonely. I would have to scramble to find somewhere to go. This was the day that you would remind me, more than any day of the year, that I didn’t have a husband, that I didn’t have kids. It felt like you were scoffing at me.

I would love to tell you that I have finally learned to love you. I would love to tell you that remembering Jesus is enough for me to feel peaceful again. I would love to tell you that I like fruitcake.

All those things are true and not true at the same time. For the most part, I am more peaceful than I used to be. I see that gift of a family, still wrapped under the tree, and I am not as angry that I can’t open it yet. I have even accepted that I might not ever open it. I am not happy about it, but I am seeing more and more that I can still have a beautiful life.

But then, after all that emotional work is done and all that acceptance occurs, something happens. Like when I watch the kids at my after-school program exploding with excitement and anticipation, and I wish I could have my own children doing the same thing. Like when I see a couple kiss under the mistletoe. Like when I am shuffled around to households by people whole love me, but am painfully aware that I am not in their first circle of family. I can’t help but feel like a nuisance at times.

So Christmas, I can’t tell you that I will ever come to love you. Perhaps it’s good for me to choose to love the beautiful side of you as much as possible. Perhaps I should let myself grieve the bad parts of you and not be frustrated at myself for being sad. It’s okay to love you, and it’s okay to hate you.

As Cheryl Strayed says, “Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go.

“Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”

Sincerely,

Kate

P.S. I really appreciate that you stopped singing “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” so much. I see that you have tried so hard by replacing it with the more “modern” Mariah Carey song, “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” But I have news for you: 1994 is not modern. And that song is getting almost as annoying as the other one.

The Mystery of Oneness

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In my post called The Longing and the Mystery, I explored the German word Sehnsucht, defining it as “a longing for a far off country you have never been to.”

However, this word is complex and laden with nuances. Today I want to un-peel another layer of this fascinating emotion, looking at the side to it that CS Lewis describes in his book The Pilgrim’s Regress as

“That unnameable something, a desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead… the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves.

Close your eyes and now, placing yourself in some of the most beautiful moments of your life. If you are like me, you can recall how you felt in those places. A feeling that is not one hundred percent happiness and  not one hundred percent sadness, but an intense mixture of both emotions. A beautiful and frustrating longing and satisfaction happening simultaneously.

For me, I am taken back to Gregory Canyon, where I have spent hundreds of hours in the last 10 years in Boulder praying and weeping and laughing, recognizing God was journeying with me through it all and acknowledging that he was walking with me.  I am taken to the hospital room when my nephew was born and didn’t breathe for 24 minutes but survived. I am taken back to hiking through the alps in Switzerland, which was so beautiful that I thought maybe I was on another planet. Several times during that hike I gasped out loud and had a hard time breathing because it was so magnificent. I am taken to the incredible worship times I had in Ireland, so heartfelt and so raw, with young students that were learning what it meant to worship the living God, complete with the entire room spontaneously dancing and singing spontaneous songs and spontaneous raps. I was truly in awe of the spirit of God and the beautiful body of Christ. I am taken back to floating in a lagoon in Hawaii with a waterfall splashing before me and red beaches surrounding me. I am taken back to my friend Carson’s hospital bed where I sang over him in what was thought to be the last day of his life. (But wasn’t).

In every scene, the Sehnsucht was there. This sense of longing and beauty and hardship and depth and life and….God.

We were talking about this topic at Access, the wonderful spiritual formation group I go to in Denver. As we were trying to describe Sehsucht, I closed my eyes, seeing if I could define it better. I placed myself in some of the aforementioned scenarios. I willed myself to feel the Sehnsucht. I opened my eyes and raised my hand.

“It’s almost like I want to be one with whatever is surrounding me in those circumstances With nature, with that person, with life, with God. That’s where that deep longing came from. I wanted oneness.”

I came to find out that my friend facilitating the discussion was writing a dissertation on oneness, and that is what he thought defines Sehnsucht more than anything else.

This idea of longing for oneness runs through the romantic veins of our culture. We who are single long more than anything else to no longer be alone, to be one with someone else. Those who are married wish they could understand their mate better so that they could be closer to being one with them.

Oneness is also the blood that pulsates through our relationship with God. Some scholars believe the word religion comes from the root word religio which means to bind together (ligio) again (re). At the very heart of religion is the hope that the given framework will bind us together with God again. That it will facilitate us being one with him.

Communion is a perfect example of God’s desire to be one with us. Communion’s root words are with and union. Could there be a more obvious picture of God’s desire to live in us then eating his flesh and drinking his blood? When Jesus gave communion to his disciples, he was in effect saying “a new era is coming. Before now, you may have lived in God, but my cross will make a way for God to live in you.”

As Richard Rohr says “This is not pantheism (I am God), but it is orthodox panen theism (God is in me and I am in God).”

The distinction is so important. Pantheism is so lonely. There is no other. All humans long for an other. Any set of spiritual beliefs that doesn’t include an other will inevitably lead to despair, because we were created for relationship. Many of my new age friends that I work with would say that there is no God, rather all nature and all of us are one. They are right that oneness is beautiful. But they don’t often think about the fact that that belief system is incredibly lonely.

In Panen theism, however, we have the best of both worlds. There is an other, but we are in the other, and the other is in us.  We are not alone, and ultimately we will be united with the being that loves us so deeply and so completely.

So the next time you experience sehnsucht, that holy longing, that inexplicable mixture of joy and sorrow and longing for home, remember how good it is to know that the God who loves you so fantastically and brilliantly has also offered for you to live in him and him to live in you. A mystery that none of could begin to fathom.

Free Christmas EP and Newsletter

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Hello friends!

Well, I am starting a brand new leg of my journey….moving to San Diego to work with an intentional community called Beta Communities and teaching music and writing classes to refugee teenagers there. If all goes well I will be moving to Asheville, NC to start my own team, probably working with the young traveling homeless community.

I don’t want to give you all the details here, but if you’d like to receive my newsletter I’d love to send it! Anyone who gets on the list I will also send a zip file of my Christmas CD.

Click here to be directed to my website which will give you my email address. 

You can also click here to go straight to the donate page on my website and learn about what I am doing there. 

Thanks for believing in me!

Kate

One Day I Will Get My Wings

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In the book called The Five Things We Cannot Change: (And the Happiness We Find By Emrabracing Them), the first thing sited that we cannot change is

Everything changes and ends.

I have been thinking about this lately because there is a good chance that I will be leaving Boulder, my home of 10 years, in order to pursue dreams of vocational ministry. First to San Diego where I will train to become a leader, and if all goes well, starting a team that works with New Age travelers in Asheville, NC.

It is hitting me that when I leave Boulder, I will be leaving friends that are like family to me, family that I have a decade of history with. Friends that I have had a hundred meals with, who I have cried my guts out with and laughed even harder with. It takes years to build such special bonds with people, and when I move to San Diego, I will be starting over with everyone around me.

I will leave the farm I live on and the wonderful community there. I will leave a job I enjoy. I will leave the hiking paths and bike trails that are such a part of my worship experience. I will leave the best hip hop classes in the world with the wonderful African instructor who always kisses me on the cheek and calls me baby girl.  I will leave Access, the spiritual formation discussion group I go to in Denver and my spiritual director there, which has become a place of so much learning and family and joy. I will leave Pearl street in the spring with it’s thousands of tulips and street performers. And I will leave Busaba, the best Thai restaurant ever.

I love Boulder. I am not leaving because I am unsatisfied now, I am leaving because I know that it is time for me to grow, and growing means crossing a bridge to another place.

I don’t like it. I hate letting go of things. I love people and I love seasons, and they are both so hard for me to let go of. But I can’t change the changing. To grow, I have to let go. I have to resist the urge to stop change from happening and let the changing change me.

I heard a story on one of my favorite radio shows Radio Lab the other day that made me think about how important it is for me to let things change without putting a death grip on them, that fighting those changes will fight my own transformation.

The story was about butterflies. The expert in the show called a chrysalis, the place where a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, one of the “great black boxes of nature.”

What do you think happens inside of a chrysalis? Most people think that if you were to cut a chrysalis open, you would see a caterpillar that was slowly changing into a butterfly…wings popping out on both sides, the body getting smaller, etc. But that is not the case. Instead, if you open up a chrysalis, all that there is this white yellow goo. No antenna. No wings. No brain. Just a bunch of goo.

Scientists are baffled on how that bunch of goo just suddenly becomes a butterfly. But it does.

Another interesting thing the show explained is that you cut open a caterpillar, you find the beginnings of wings and antenna. The butterfly is already in the caterpillar. We just can’t see it yet.

A few days after I listened to the radio show, I was watching the movie Liberal Arts. Zac Efron plays a whimsical college student. He’s talking to his 35 year old friend, who is struggling with questions about getting older. He too started talking about butterflies.

Effron’s character says “Want some good news? Caterpillars. They’re just scooting along being caterpillars. At some point these cells show up called imaginal cells. Scientists don’t know where they come from or why they appear…but these imaginal cells show up inside the caterpillar and say ‘get psyched caterpillar. It’s butterfly-turning-into time!’

And what do all the other caterpillar cells do when these imaginal cells show up. They attack ’em! Try to kill ’em! They’re like ‘screw you imaginal cells! We’re happy being a caterpillar. Get lost!’

But the imaginal cells keep growing  and overtake the destiny of the caterpillar and will it into this cocoon and then guess what happens next? The caterpillar turns into a butterfly.

And that is why there is no reason to be afraid. Because everything is ok.

So here I am, the great caterpillar with wings inside of me that I cant’ see. All the caterpillar cells in me are saying “please, let me stay the same! I don’t want change!” but the imaginal cells are saying

I know that change is scary. But change is what gives you wings.

I finally give up the urge to control and I let the imaginal cells take over. I expect my wings to come right away but instead…I become a bunch of goo. Things are so different and so unorganized feeling and so messy and so not right. But I have to trust. I have to keep believing that the goo has a purpose.

One day I will get my wings.

2 Corinthians 3:18 says “But we all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

The prefix “trans” means across, which gives the impression of movement. Therefore we could see the word transformed as formed by going across. Formed by movement.

It’s time for me to be formed by going across. By letting go of one world and crossing the bridge into another world, where new joys and new sorrows will await me.

It’s time for me to stop resisting change and trying to control my life, but to let the change change me. To embrace the goo, trusting in God even when my questions go unanswered. To believe that I am going from “glory to glory” being transformed to be more and more like my savior every time that I allow him to work and move in me through the chaos.

And one day, I will get my wings.

As Efron’s character says

That is why there is no reason to be afraid. Because everything is ok.