Tag Archives: love

That’s What Friends Are For

Today’s blog requires you know the following:

I am not good at admitting I’ve run out of resources, ideas or strategies for solving problems. I am overly responsible, even about things that are not my responsibility.

I am also not great at showing how I truly feel about something. That is partially created by the training I received to be a pastor and my professional need to appear as if I have it all together when speaking, teaching or leading worship services.

For the last fifteen years, my extended family has been dealing with a family member who is not doing well due to mental issues and substance abuse. This has been a long, worrisome, exhausting, roller coaster of a journey. In the last months it as taken another downturn and lately I’ve come to the brick wall understanding that I’ve run out of resources.  Maybe you or someone you know struggles with something similar. Maybe you understand the heartbreaking feeling of wanting to help yet being unable to.

As luck, schedules and providence would have it, a friend and I spontaneously got together for coffee. For some reason, she asked about this family member. She knows the journey I’ve been on. We had lots of other things to talk about, yet she asked about this first. She remembered.

Then, she listened to my latest heartbreak over no longer knowing what to do. See point one above.  She helpfully shared a couple of examples of her own of this dynamic and how it has played out in real life.

As we wound our way through the conversation, I cried. I don’t cry in front of others much, especially in the middle of Starbucks. See point two above. She cried with me. She literally cried with me. Real tears were rolling down her face.

She prayed. She stopped talking and prayed with me. She just took my hand and prayed a one line prayer for God’s help because it seemed too big for both of us.

Then she took a breath, looked me in the eyes and spoke truth to me. She said, “You need counseling. This is long, ongoing and sticky because it is family and you need outside counsel. You just do.” I told her that’s what I usually tell other people, not what they tell me. She said, “I know but I’m telling you.”

She was right. Her words pierced my heart.

This what friends do for each other. She remembered and asked. She listened. She felt it so hard. She cried with me. She prayed. And, then she told me the truth, to my face, briefly, adamantly, with love. When she spoke that truth, it resonated in my soul and I knew she was right.

Oh my goodness, I am so grateful for her in that hour, on that day, with this situation.  I want to be exactly that kind of friend.

Above all, love each other deeply. 1 Peter 4:8

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, breast cancer survivor and struggling family member. 

Love=Noticing

It’s Valentines Week, the time of year when we become Love focused for a bit. Some people feel sad during this time if romance isn’t in the picture. That’s unfortunate and it seems far more productive to focus on just upping our love game in general.

Lately I’ve been writing and speaking about the art of noticing.  I’ve declared that in my new life part of my job description now is be a noticer.

I started with creation. I noted that the sun rises and sets daily and maybe I should just watch and notice that more.

Then I realized all of creation is filled with beautiful and stunning things worth noting. I read somewhere that when we pause notice any part of creation it is as if we are worshipping God.

In a devotional reading this week, Oswald Chambers wrote The prophet Isaiah made people look up at the heavens in order to use their imagination properly. If we are children of God, we have a tremendous treasure in nature and will realize that it is holy and sacred. We will see God reaching out to us in every wind that blows, every sunrise and sunset, every cloud in the sky, every flower that blooms, and every leaf that fades. My Utmost for His Highest

Spiritual people are called to see with imagination what cannot quite be seen.  What if nature is infused with God’s unseen presence and signs? What if our job was simply to notice?

I imagine the call to notice extends to other living creatures as well. When my dog wants a pet she rolls onto her back, hoping I’ll notice. People crave being noticed and seen. Jesus was particularly good at seeing people.

Maya Angelou once said, Your eyes should light up when your child enters the room. I wonder what would happen if our eyes lit up when anyone entered the room?

I see you sunrise, sky, flower and tree.  I see you daughter, son, spouse and grandchild. I see you, dog needing a pet and hungry family struggling to make ends meet.

I see you person sitting alone or clenching your teeth in the grocery store line.  I see you person with hands and plate full.

Love doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It begins with noticing.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller, breast cancer survivor and noticer.

Whispers

I never knew why older people cried at weddings. It seemed obvious to me that it was  a happy time. I didn’t get it.

I met Julie when I was an 18-year-old freshman at Texas A&M. We decided to be roommates the next year and have been close friends since then.

I’ll never forget the day I picked her up from her workplace for lunch. My newly married friend got in my car as pale as the palest ghost. I said, “What is wrong with you?” She swallowed her nausea and managed the word “pregnant.” We were both stunned. We’d never done pregnancy before.

Five babies, many milestones, lots of life, challenging jobs, countless lunches and shopping sprees later, the baby she was pregnant with thirty years ago got married, this past Saturday night.

Suddenly, I’m the person in the congregation crying because, oh my goodness…life!  Her baby boy looked the same as he always had except now he was the groom. My friend looked gorgeous as the glowing groom’s mom.

Our weekend was filled with celebrations and people we had not seen for years. The entire time I’m asking myself how this happened. How did the college girls get to be moms of adults?

When I was younger older people used to whisper to me the secrets of life. I was moving too fast to listen. It seemed like they were telling me something about babies growing fast and time flying.

Now, I’m the one whispering and crying happy tears in the pew because, to me, a wedding is so much more than two people marrying. It is a lifetime of moments, relationships, parenting, angst and friendship all squeezed into a few sacred Holy moments where love and hope once again emerge.

When all that awareness hits you at once, it’s bound to seep out in joy-filled tears.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, writer, mom, Mimosa to Keller, breast cancer survivor and tearful wedding guest. She is speaking at The Well women’s event at First UMC Grapevine, Texas on February 8, 2018. Some tickets are still available at http://www.fumcg.org/cindyryan 

Tree Trauma

Tis the season of gifts. You have your list and I have mine. Retailers are working as hard as they can to make sure we want to give what they have. Thankfully, our family’s gift lists have been trimmed down over the years due to our intentional simplification. Today I found a picture of Christmas from about 20 years. We were in a large room and the gifts were all over the room, a huge pile in front of each person, above our heads. We were sitting down, but still. And, this was just our celebration with one side of the family. Everyone had at least 15 gifts; there were 11 of us in the picture. You do the math.

In the Christian faith, we mark this season before Christmas as a time of watching and waiting. We decorate with the focus on a few candles. Sunday by Sunday we light one candle, then two as we talk about gifts, The gifts we talk about in Advent are the ones God wants to give us: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love and Christ. That’s it.

The older I get the less I want wrapped, bought gifts and the more I desperately crave God’s gifts.

Last week, we put up our tree. I love having the tree up and lit early so I can enjoy it for all the weeks leading to Christmas. Because of our empty nest, we are short on labor around here so I decided I could assemble the four pieces of our artificial tree by myself, get the stand and skirt on it, get the lights working, add all the red ribbon by myself and then coax my husband into adding ornaments with me later.

This proved to be a very difficult task for one person. It is still hot here in Texas so I was in a full body sweat by the time I got it all up, MOST of the lights working and ribbon swirling sort of attractively around it. For some reason my dog chose that time while I was distracted and sweating to help herself to a whole bag of pepper jack cheese. This cheese thing, plus the sweating really dampened my Christmas Spirit which comes and goes anyway due to the over-the-top nature of all things Christmas.

When my husband got home I shared my work of art and told him he had just enough time to add ornaments with me before the Cowboy game. He was motivated and moving fast. Then, in the midst of it all, I had a huge wave of Missing My Children which hit without warning as we put up ornament after ornament with their preschool and elementary age faces plus all the baby’s first Christmas ones and the ones we love the most and the ones that always make us laugh. So, yes, I started crying and telling my husband no one warned me about the empty nest tree part.

He coaxed me to move onward mostly because of the Cowboy game. At the last touches the tree seemed to sway a bit, then a bit more. He quietly asked if I’d secured the stand with the three big screws provided. I told him there were no screws provided and that I was sure we didn’t need them as long as no one ever brushed up against or came even remotely close to the tree. He disagreed.

What happened next involved both of us at times prone on the floor under the tree, yelling at each other better ways to do what needed to be done, needing a flashlight, dismantling the whole thing and sweating.

It’s up now, no longer swaying and quite beautiful.

Between the heat, the dog eating the cheese, the Empty Nest meltdown and the after the fact securing, I’m back where I started, just needing God’s gifts: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love and Christ.

Every one of us has our seasonal challenges, some are bigger than others, of course. May God’s best gifts continue to soothe you and yours this season.

 

Wear Love

I just made a homemade Valentine for my husband. I’m a left-handed person who has always been terrible at cutting things out. It all goes back to elementary school when they gave lefties those green-handled scissors. Why did they do that? What magic were those rubber green handles were supposed to create? Whatever it was, all they did for me was create havoc on my artwork.

So, the glittery construction paper heart I made him looks, well, left-handed. I made it, though, because I have a greeting card aversion. I can’t believe cards are $7 now. And, they don’t say what I want to say. I rebelled and made my own. He will like it.

Valentine’s Day is a love day. Every day is a love day. Right now, lots of people seem to be trying to figure out ways we can express love better to each other…beyond race, beyond culture, beyond religion, beyond political differences. Because a lot of hate is coming out right now, and anxiety and fear, it seems super crucial that we love.

When I walk each day, if I go really far, I end up under a highway. I think it is scary there. My dog really hates it there because it is loud. There is graffiti there which is sad. However, it is the nicest graffiti I’ve ever seen. It says, “I Love You” in big white letters. I don’t know who wrote it but whenever I see it, I imagine it is a message for me and one I’m supposed to share.

love

How do we do it? In the Message translation of scripture, Colossians 3:14 advises that we wear it. “And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.”

Wear love. That’s it. Let it wrap you up like your favorite yoga pants and soft t-shirt. Take comfort in it…but then wear it. Let it be the part of you that people see.

Love…feel it, wear it, share it, live into it. Imagine the people you are finding the most difficult to even like right now and picture what it would mean to love them. Love when it is scary, when it is difficult, when it is fun.

Make somebody a heart. Wear love. I believe it is our way forward.

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The Under Toad

I’m finding comfort in reading John Irving novels. Currently, I’m reading The World According to Garp. I like Irving’s writing even though I’m sure I don’t understand parts of it. His work always intrigues and challenges me.

In this novel, the Garp family talks to their young sons at the beach every year about the under tow. They describe what it can do to you. One of their boys becomes particularly afraid. Finally, they get to the bottom of his fear. He believed all along they were saying, “Watch out for the Under Toad.” He was picturing a massive frog-like toad, lurking under the dark of the water, big-eyed, slimy, ready to grab him by the legs and steal him away.

After that, whenever anxiety popped up in their family, they called it the Under Toad.

I’m seeing quite a bit of the Under Toad lately, are you? I see it in the news, in my Twitter feed and other forms of social media. I see it in families and friendship circles. I see it in schools, churches and in the community. Last week, I had a conversation with a relative over politics at her initiative that sent me rushing out the door, emotional, sweating, uttering bad words and covered in Under Toads.

One of the ongoing lessons I have learned in my adult life is that the Under Toad does not help anything.  It is bad for marriages and parenting. It is bad for leaders and followers. The Under Toad moves us from being thinking, calm people to overly emotional, reactive ones.

I hate it because it is so much fun to blame others, but the truth is we cannot manage other people’s Under Toads, only our own. When anxiety is high, all you can do is manage your Toad.

Sometimes our fears are real and based in fact. There really is, for example, an under tow out there which we should know about and respect. But, it is not a huge, amphibian-like monster plotting to get us. Millions of people do not die each year because of Under Toads. In fact, no one has even been hurt by one, ever.

How do we manage our Under Toads?

Everyone is different, of course, but here’s my list of anxiety-busters:

Establish some spiritual touch points and routines that anchor you like prayer, journaling, meditation, scripture. Do these whether you feel like it or not. Don’t wait until inspired. That is not how it works.

Engage with nature. Creation feeds our souls. The colors, the smells, the wonder of outside eases anxiety. Sunrises and sunsets are my favorite twice a day Toad repellent.under-toad

Music works every time.

Comedians. Thank God for the funny people. Did you know, laughter cannot co-exist with Toads?

Babies. Children. Find some. Rent some. Volunteer near some. According to Psychology Today, 4 year olds are reported to laugh 300 times a day. 40 year olds? Only 4. Find a small person, play and just laugh when they laugh.

Disconnect. I’m beginning to think our media feeds our hungry Under Toads and when our Toads are large and scary, we keep going back for more. When they see what sells it is like supply and demand. Maybe we should take a little break.

Breathe. Mary Oliver, the poet, writes, “Are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?” I don’t know about you, but sometimes I forget to breathe deeply, especially when being pursued by Toads.

Exercise. It is amazing how we are made. Exercise is good for us and breaks the anxiety chain. It helps us feel better, look better and sleep better. I walk. Every day. Outside, in nature. I breathe there. I disconnect there.

Act. Do something. Go ahead and act. Today, I spent a couple of hours with some amazing women strategizing about how we would help serve the economically disadvantaged students in our public schools with school supplies and other resources. It kept the Toad at bay.

Love. Love people. Love strangers. Love your family. Love those who feel differently than you do. Try to listen but also take care of you. Learn to say, “Can we change the conversation? I’m having an allergic reaction to a personal Toad problem right now.” I promise they will stop talking.

Thank you, John Irving, for your writing. You showed me the power of the Under Toad…and more than that, you showed me it is not even real.

 

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Milestone Moments

60 years. My parents celebrated 60 years of marriage this weekend. I know, that’s a lot of years of marriage. We chose a low-key celebration at their home. All four of their children were present for the day, which is rare, along with some significant others and a few grandchildren. We played games, ate their favorite barbecue, remembered a few stories together, teased each other and then played more games.  My family is like yours, awash in family dynamics, so we had all of that going, of course.  We had a family meeting to talk about the future which was brave and important and something I would recommend every family do.

Our different resentments, issues and decades long baggage were all present and accounted for. Through the day, we had tears, tension and laughter.  Some of us were hot and would crack a window secretly until other people figured it out and were freezing. We repeated the window thing all day.

We asked my parents to please tell us the secret to marriage. My dad said the secret is just two words, “Yes Ma’am.” I like that. Then my mom chimed in and said the secret was respect. I like that too. She still calls my dad her boyfriend and repeatedly tells us how much she likes him and how cute he is. She made a couple of clear, heartfelt speeches telling us how much she has loved her life, her work, her travels, her children, her grandchildren and great-grandson. Alzheimer’s evidently took the day off for this anniversary milestone, so imagine that.

60 years takes you through so many seasons, so many dynamics, so many homes and jobs and friends. 60 years presents different challenges at different times and my family has weathered a few.

Almost everything these days makes me feel grateful, blessed and amazed. Milestone moments highlight the blessings.

We all looked at their wedding pictures. They still have the cake topper from their wedding cake. Some of us did little photo collages and put the pictures on Facebook or Instagram so others could see our celebration.

My husband’s grandmother always used to remind me that I was rich, rich, rich. On Saturday it felt like she was so right.