Monday, June 28, 2010

should and want

What is the difference between doing something because I "should" and something because I "want to?" We talked about the difference between these two motivations last week in a group discussion. Jon Ortberg holds that "should" does not have the stamina to get you there. Only "want" can do that. "Should" is an auxiliary engine, but can never serve as a long-term primary motivation because "want" will always win out over "should." Will power can give you a long lecture on how you should not eat that second piece of chocolate cherry cake, but if you really want it, you know you will eventually stuff it into your mouth.

"Want" is much stronger than "should." I think that desire might be the most powerful motivating force on the earth. It will win over money. It will wear down "should." It will keep us going long after we have run out of energy. It won't stop in the face of pain, discomfort, or threats. Ask any addict about that. Desire is made to drive us powerfully, but sometimes our desires are not for the right things. The goal of spiritual growth (and maturity of any kind, really) is to turn "shoulds" into "wants." [1] It is no longer that we know we "should" be generous and kind and faithful, but we now "want" to do those things, to be that kind of person. But how does one do that?

I don't like cleaning my house. It is an onerous and unpleasant task, in my books, and I will find the silliest excuses to put off dusting and sweeping the floors. This past week, I had house guests for 4 days. It is one of our greatest pleasures to be able to open our home to people, and we have had a rush of them this past month. The morning that this particular set of guests left, I wasted no time in laundering all the bedding and towels, tidying up the room, and making the bed. I don't know why, but I always like to have the guest room ready and clean it immediately after it has been used.

That evening we had supper with some out-of-town friends, and it became apparent that they were a little crowded staying with their son. Dean immediately suggested that they spend the night at our house. I echoed Dean's invitation, reassuring our friends that I was totally prepared for more guests. And I was. So what makes cleaning the guest room different from general cleaning? Why do I drag me feet over a bit of vacuuming but can't wait to tidy up the guest room? It is because I love the people that God brings through our house. To clean my house is a chore, but to prepare a guest room is an act of love.

Perhaps "should" and "want" can be compared to "fear" and "love." "Should" is a realisation that things will go better for me if I do this certain thing. It focuses more on, "If I don't do this, then x and y will happen." And I don't want x and y to happen. Fear-based motivation. "Want" is pure desire, running in the direction of something, or more correctly, someone. It is not really concerned with trying to avoid certain uncomfortable consequences. If I love God, nothing seems too great a sacrifice to make in order to be with him, to follow him, and to do the things that he does. If I pray or commit myself to a church group or give money or read my Bible because I should, these habits will probably be relatively fruitless and short-lived. But if I do them because I love connecting with God, my whole life will be lived in his communicative presence.

Love makes the difference. It makes me do the right things because I just can't help myself. I want to. I really, really want to.

This is a picture of a cantalope that I want to eat right now!

[1] This idea taken from "The Me I Want To Be" by Jon Ortberg. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

word accident

You know the feeling when you say something and you realise later, "Oops, perhaps that really wasn't the best thing I could have said?" I had some occasions this week where the words that came out of my mouth didn't really express the sentiments that I wanted them to. Instead, they reflected my impatience and an annoying habit of trying to force things right by my own efforts. I hate it when that happens. It leaves me feeling scummy and a bit paranoid about ever opening my mouth again. It can also lead me down a path of unhelpful introspection where everyone's actions around me become tied into something I did or said wrong, at least in my skewed perspective. I mean, how much more self-centred can one get?

The nagging sense of failure clung to me for a few days, even after I apologised to people, and then I received a note from a friend far away. She was recalling some random comment I made to her years ago; it was a fond and funny memory and she wanted me to know the positive impact I have had in her life. Really? I didn't even remember making that silly comment, but her note brought a smile to my face and some peace to my worry. Maybe I wasn't quite the murderer with words that I thought I was.

Another thing happened this morning that reminded me not to take myself so seriously. I had house guests last night, and after they left, I discovered that one of them had left a shirt in the bathroom. I quickly pulled out my cell phone and sent a text message. This is how the text conversation went:
Me: Tim, you left your brown t-shirt in my bathroom. Oops!
Tim: Who is this!
Me (thinking Tim is being silly): Matte
Not Tim: Don't know you. Guess you have wrong #.


I checked the number and realised that I had indeed transposed the last two numbers when I entered them. What a message to send to a total stranger! Good thing I included the name, Tim, which alerted the receiver that something was not quite right! Imagine some man mentally going over the bathrooms he had frequented in the last 24 hours, wondering what he didn't remember. Or imagine some wife getting that message and thinking, yes, my husband was wearing a brown shirt yesterday! It could have led to a crazy misunderstanding, all because I got a few numbers wrong. Thankfully, the person on the other end of the text message quickly figured it out, and the conversation was reduced to a funny text accident.

I have been thinking about words and how much power I ascribe to them. Yes, words are powerful, but I forget that God's love is more powerful. Assuming that my words have the authority to make or break someone's life, even by a few slips of the tongue (or thumb), is arrogance. Yes, our words have creative power because God's words carry the ultimate creative power, and we are his image-bearers. However, there is always the R factor: the presence of redemption can turn a shitty, stinking mess of a situation into a flowering bed of daisies, roses, or whatever your favourite plant is.

I think that perhaps words do not have power in and of themselves. There is a radical difference between a parrot and a person saying the same sentence. Words mostly reflect what is going on in our hearts: whether we are loving and generous people or self-involved and greedy people. Words are meant to lead to life and beauty, and I believe they always can. Even when I wield them badly. If I submit to God's loving purposes, he can take my unskillful and mangled words, weave them into his large and merciful goodness, and somehow come up with a beautiful tapestry that reflects his glorious magnificence.

I don't know how God does it, but when I say something mean and hurtful in a moment of frustration, the simple act of surrender can turn the mistake into a doorway to life. Through my mistake, I can learn to practise humility, learn to love better, learn how to deepen a friendship by working through a rough bit, and learn to participate in the mystery and hard work of reconciliation. I can also learn to look for the prevailing heart motivations of people instead of making snap judgments based on individual and uncontextualised words.

Yes, I say silly things sometimes. Yes, I say unloving things sometimes, but I'll be darned if an occasional fumble or setback will make me run off the playing field. Conversations are only short plays in a long game. I will pick up the words again. I will pass them along better. I will keep moving to the goal. I will leave mistakes behind while learning from them, both for myself and others, and not give up hope. There is life to be had from words, if I am only patient and gracious enough to first let God grow it inside of me.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14 (New Living Translation)

This is a picture of a page under "M" in my dictionary. I inherited it from my father's library.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

containers

The problem with containers is that I like them. I love their different shapes and sizes and the promise of tidiness that is attached to them. I like stacking them and arranging them on shelves. However, there is a major difference between containers and what they carry. Sometimes I forget that. I can focus on the loveliness of the container too much, and then what is inside becomes almost secondary. Events, meetings, and traditions are containers. They are meant to carry something that is valuable to us. These containers can come and go and morph into different forms, and we should never get too attached to their malleable shapes.

A weekly church meeting is a container. It is meant to carry something really important, but it is only a container. It is a time and place to recognise that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. It is a time to recognise the presence and work of an almighty God and see beyond our limited world of work and play. It is a place to devote ourselves to the sacrifice and joy and huge challenge of developing community. Whether the container delivers this or not is another question, and to my thinking, probably depends more on what everyone brings to the container than to those in charge of container maintenance.

Sadly, sometimes we can attend a weekly church service and never really participate in any of these amazing "inside the container" opportunities. But because we have a container in our lives, our perception is that things are in order. Some people will throw out a container because it is broken, and they have cut themselves on it. Perhaps the container is leaking or simply does not fit into their lives anymore. From my limited observation of those who toss out containers, too many of them seem unable to keep a handle on the valuable stuff that they really want and need in their lives. Without a container of any kind, the good stuff all starts to slip away. I have seen some folks jump from container to container, always chasing the newest and shiniest and most exciting one, and never thinking about what the valuable stuff inside might be and what part they play in bringing it.
Ultimately, I am a container, too. I decide what I carry, and I (Matte) have decided to carry faithfulness. I want to devote myself to God. As best as I can, I give him my time and my attention and my thankfulness, no matter what task I am doing. I try to devote myself to others, too. I attempt to love and be generous with my friends. I try to care for those who have needs. I do life together with those who will challenge me to love God more. That's a hard one, to be honest, but the most rewarding one for me.
Oh, and I really love it when, on occasion, I realise that the good things that God gives are not meant to be contained at all. Now we're talking!
Thank to Gary Best who introduced this idea in a webinar that I attended a few weeks ago.
This is a picture of a container some visitors from Dubai brought us. It is filled with exotic spices from the East.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

good to great

On the recommendation of a friend, I started reading the book, Good to Great by Jim Collins. It contains the highly readable and interesting results of 5 years of research conducted to answer the question: Why do some companies make the leap from good to great and others don't? It is much more than a book on business. It is a book on how to do life with others and make something great of it. It talks about the unexpected but absolutely necessary factor of humility, putting the interests of the "whole" ahead of your own interests, focussing on "who" before "what," and the amazing potential of disciplined dedication. Here are some quotes that I found stimulating:

Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice. (p. 11)

When you have disciplined people, you don't need hierarchy. When you have disciplined thought, you don't need bureaucracy. When you have disciplined action, you don't need excessive controls. (p. 13)

No matter how dramatic the end result, the good-to-great transformation never happened in one fell swoop...Rather, the process resembled relentlessly pushing a giant heavy flywheel in one direction, turn upon turn, building momentum until a point of breakthrough, and beyond. (p. 14)

(regarding what he calls Level 5 executives who embody a paradoxical mix of personal humility and unwavering resolve) They are ambitious, to be sure, but ambitious first and foremost for the company, not themselves. (p. 39.)

Level 5 leaders look out the window to attribute success to factors other than themselves. When things go poorly, however, they look in the mirror and blame themselves, taking full responsibility. The comparison CEOs often did just the opposite - they looked in the mirror to take credit for success, but out the window to assign blame for disappointing results. (p. 39)

On two companies facing the challenge of cheap imported steel which could affect their domestic sales: Bethlehem Steel's CEO summed up the company's problems in 1983 by blaming imports: "Our first, second, and third problems are imports." Ken Iverson and his crew at Nucor considered the same challenge from imports a blessing, a stroke of good fortune ("Aren't we lucky; steel is heavy, and they have to ship it all the way across the ocean, giving us a huge advantage!"). (p. 34.)

Nucor built its entire system on the idea that you can teach farmers how to make steel, but you can't teach a farmer work ethic to people who don't have it in the first place. So, instead of setting up mills in traditional steel towns like Pittsburgh and Gary, it located its plants in places like Crawfordsville, Indiana; Norfolk, Nebraska; and Plymouth, Utah - places full of real farmers who go to bed early, rise at dawn, and get right to work without fanfare. (p. 50.)

For no matter what we achieve, if we don't spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect, we cannot possibly have a great life. (p. 62.)

And I've only read the first 3 chapters! Most of all I have been struck by the solid evidence that desire for recognition (celebrity) and ego-driven agendas are death blows to greatness. Ordinary people can do extra-ordinary things if they don't care who gets the credit. As Alan Wurtzel, of the highly successful Circuit City, said when asked what the difference was between his competing CEO and himself: "The show horse and the plow horse - he was more of a show horse, whereas I was more of a plow horse." (p. 33.)

Let us plow on...
This is picture of some flowers I picked in the woods, plopped in a black drinking glass, and photographed in my bathtub. Elements I usually wouldn't think to put together.

Monday, June 14, 2010

expiry date

I threw out something today that was past the expiration date. The year 2007 was printed on the back of the bottle, and I figured it was time. Probably way past time. I don't know why I hold onto things that are no longer useful. It seems wasteful, I guess. But whether or not it is wasteful is not always the best deciding factor.

I said something yesterday that I regret. It was posed as a question, and on some level I guess I was asking for information, asking to understand, but the question was pretty loaded. It was skewed to carry the following message: "What's your problem? Why don't you get it together? I've figured this out, why can't you?" I didn't even realise how arrogant my attitude was until it was pointed out to me (those are real friends for you). It turns out that there are other ways to see a situation, to accomplish a task, than my way. There are people with completely different sets of skills from what I have, and I can be somewhat blind to their existence and effectiveness.

I acknowledged this in my head, but I found it hard to let go of my biased opinion for some reason, even though it was obviously not useful. It could even prove to be harmful if left unchecked, but something inside me said that there must be some grain of truth in what I was thinking. Something could be salvaged, something would be found right so that I wouldn't have to toss my whole train of thought (and my pride) aside. That would be such a waste. I was convinced that if I thought about it long enough and played a bit of Rubik's cube with the words, if I just rephrased the question, it would still be a valid query. I was wrong.

I had to pry the thing out of the tightly clenched fingers of my heart. I had to remind myself that I value humility. I value love. I value the well-being of others over my own self-fulfillment. I am not perfect and I see things wrongly sometimes. I may be a leader in a church, but that doesn't mean I have the correct perspective all the time. I have days when I just get it wrong, when my attitude is stinky, and the quicker I let it go the better for everyone involved. C'mon, Matte, just toss it in the garbage and get on with a fresh start.

Humility loves fresh starts. Pride resists them. God resists the proud. He embraces the humble. I like to be embraced. Decision made. *toss*

This is a picture of my expired crap. It is now in the garbage.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

hello girls!

Some of the girls (or should I say women) that I used to hang out with in high school are having a little get-together this weekend in Manitoba. I can't be there, so I thought I would write a little something that would give them a glimpse of what I've been up to since we last saw each other.

Some of the jobs I have done since high school: actress in touring theatre company, maintenance crew at mental institute, video producer for motorhome manufacturer, office assistant for City of Hampstead, assistant to psychoanalyst, switchboard operator, communications assistant at Stratford Shakespearean Festival, front desk clerk at art gallery, data entry at a newspaper, Youth and Children's Co-ordinator at Anglican church, delivery driver for music store, data entry for Diners Club credit card, extra for several movies, data entry for Gynecology conference, and communications for Vineyard Montreal church.

This is me and Dean on our way to Florida last year. I am giving you a great view of my nostrils.

Some of the places I have travelled: New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Cuba, Dominican Republic, England, Germany, Hawaii, Florida, South Africa, Vancouver, Halifax, Calgary, Toronto, Winnipeg, Washington DC, Chicago, Philadelphia, Niagara Falls, and Morden.

This is my cat, Jazz, joining me in watching some lectures for an online worship course I did in 2009. She refused to do the homework, though.
Most traumatic experiences: death of my father when I was 23, motorcycle accident in 1999, getting kicked out of a church for reasons that don't seem all that important right now.

This is me in 2006, visiting the child I sponsor in South Africa. Very humbling experience!

Places I have lived: Winkler, Steinbach, Stratford (ON), Montreal (QC), Ile Perrot (QC), St-Lazare (QC), St-Laurent (QC).

Number of times I have moved since high school: 11

This is the street I live on. See the plane in the sky? We are only 15 minutes from the airport (hint, hint).

Life now: I live in St-Laurent, Quebec (that's a borough of Montreal) with Dean (best husband ever) and Jazz (co-dependent cat with domination issues). Dean works as a Business Manager in the music industry and I am currently working on my MA in Theological Studies at Concordia University. In our spare time we pastor the Vineyard Montreal church, which is currently merged with another faith community for our Sunday evening gatherings in a local university bar. This is downtown Montreal at 11 pm after the Canadiens won the second round of NHL playoffs on May 12, 2010. Everyone was on the street celebrating; they had to shut down the downtown core to traffic.

Favourite things about my life: Friends from all over the world. There is something new to learn every day. Dean. Chai green tea. Living in one of the most diverse and lively cities in the world. I am beloved by God.
This is me and some friends enjoying the sunset from the pier in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue (edge of Montreal) and trying to be Charlie's Angels.
Things I am still working on: Being a better writer, being a better photographer, being a better teacher, not being afraid of stupid stuff, not getting overwhelmed so easily by challenges, being a better friend, not being so quick to criticise, listening more, loving more, trusting God more.

The first picture is of Carolle's flowers at her chalet this spring. Every girl loves flowers!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

mailing list of life

I was reaching for something the other day when Dean pointed at my arm and said, "Hey, that's new!" He was referring to the triceps swinging lazily in a stretchy hammock of skin under my arm. Yes, they are new! They arrived recently without me even having to order them! Other old lady body parts have been showing up as well, all free of charge! Isn't that amazing? Do you like them? I hope so, because I'm not sure I can return them.

Despite what plastic surgeons and cosmetic manufacturers would have us believe, it is impossible to get off the "Old Person Body Parts" mailing list once you are on it. Packages show up at random and unexpected times. One day you are putting on your clothes and Surprise! Here are your new larger and longer buttocks! Or you may be just sitting there reading a book and Voila! Your hands have been upgraded to the new super-wrinkle skin and hey, here's some bonus brown accent spots! I can honestly say that some days it is hard not to get discouraged by all the free and unsolicited upgrades.

Last night I finished reading another book about Evelyn Underhill, an early twentieth century author who popularised the study of mysticism in England and who is the topic of my master's thesis. After reading much of her first book on mysticism, an early work of her fiction, and one biography, I wasn't sure why I had thought the woman would be an interesting subject. She was scattered, opinionated without being totally informed, had a tendency to overwrite, was pretty dated in her concepts, and seemed to lack passion (which for me, is a must in a mystic). Then I read the last two chapters of a biography by Christopher Armstrong, and saw something different. After years of struggling with doubt, jealousy, and self-judgment, she let go of her self-occupation. She moved from introspection of herself to adoration of the Absolute. She no longer sought after mystical experiences; she simply and humbly offered herself to Him. Everything else became incidental.

"...the individual must lose his life to find it: the longing for personal expression, personal experience, safety, joy, must more and more be swallowed up in Charity. For the goal of Christian sanctification and Christian worship is the ceaseless self-offering of the Church, in and with Christ her head, to the increase of the glory of God." (from Worship by Evelyn Underhill, p. 82)

Evelyn Underhill's journey finally took off when she was in her mid-forties and began to practice self-forgetfulness. She deliberately took her eyes off herself and her petty imperfections and set them on Christ. She wrote of a new awareness, deep and clear, of the all-penetrating presence and love of God. She became a person who friends said carried an aura of peace and radiance with her.

As I continue on this journey of life, things will inevitably change. Some periods of life are more challenging than others in that regard. As I grow older, may my self-preoccupation decrease and my God-awareness increase. May I look at my life and my body with eyes of love as I live more and more in the presence of the supreme Lover. May I be giddy with thankfulness at every day that is given to me and not miss the multitude of blessings that lie hidden within it. May I not hide life's changes in shame, but wear them with grace and dignity. May I bring a sense of beauty and peace wherever I go because I am always with the Beautiful Prince of Peace.

This is one of my new hands. I think I'll keep it.

Monday, June 07, 2010

baseball church

I know a lot of people who have had a bad experience with the church. I am one of them. Complaints can range anywhere from boredom and irrelevancy to abusive authority and embezzlement. It is not a pretty picture. We, as Christians, do not have a proud history in many ways. I am not sure how to respond to the growing number of friends who have chosen to avoid much of the organised church.

At the very least, I still want to be their friend, but some of them find even that difficult since I serve as a leader in a local faith community. Understandable. I also want to be a good listener. This means that when people tell me their stories, I realise that it is an honour, a privilege, and a gift to be trusted with their pain. I cannot discount their experience, explain it away, or trivialise it. I can attempt to put it into context and try to understand the larger picture, but I can never dismiss its impact.

Today, while I was doing some stretches after my workout, I watched Extreme Makeover on TLC. It featured a family living in North Dakota who have a 14-year-old son named Aaron with cerebral palsy. The mother serves as the primary caregiver. She looks after his physical needs, bathes him, dresses him, and sleeps with him every night just in case he has a seizure (which can be life-threatening). In fact, she has not slept in the same bed as her husband for 14 years. To add to the strain, her husband suffered a heart attack recently and is now unable to assist her with any lifting, and Aaron has to be carried anywhere that his chair cannot go.

The house the family lived in was not built with cerebral palsy in mind and made many tasks difficult. The Extreme Makeover crew showed up, along with several hundred volunteers, and moved the old house off the lot and gave it to another family. Then they built a new house with large, open spaces, wide hallways and doorways, and a custom room for Aaron which included a shower with a lift and a sensor which will alert anyone if he is having a seizure. The father was rendered speechless when their new house was unveiled, and the mother laughed through her tears, the relief obvious.

The mother has always desired as normal a life as possible for her son, so several years ago she signed him up for baseball along with his younger brother. Due to safety concerns, the league was not willing to have him play with the rest of the kids. She then decided to begin a baseball league especially for kids with disabilities, a place where everyone could participate regardless of their physical limitations. It is called Dream Catchers. Every child has a buddy to help them play the game, and the rules have been adjusted so that everyone gets to bat, hit the ball, run the bases, and be in the field. After a week of hard work, the EM design team served as buddies while the kids played a game. It was not surprising to see the men on the crew tear up when they talked about the experience.

Despite the incredible strain on this family, none of them could be called complainers. They have willingly adjusted their lives to incorporate the weakest member of the family. They do what needs to be done and find joy in the delighted screeches that come from Aaron's mouth. The host of the show remarked that this family had something special that had seen them through a lot of hard times, and that is unconditional love.

The show ended and I was wiping away my own tears of emotion when the intro for the next program came on. It was another design show and featured a woman of impeccable taste selecting fabrics and ohhing and ahhhing over the exquisite patterns. The shallowness of the premise struck me hard. Not that I want to pass judgment on anyone with fine taste, but it seemed self-indulgent. I love beauty, but it is not found in the expensive things. It is alive in a field of upturned sunflowers. It is inexplicably present in the smile of a child and the wag of a dog's tail. It is ever-present in the loving dedication and painstaking attention to detail that an artist brings to his craft. And it runs at full speed in a mother's love.

And what does all this have to do with the the sad state of the church? I believe we have forgotten how to live lovingly and sacrificially with the weakest among us. We have become self-indulgent in many ways, shopping for fine spiritual atmospheres, and developing expensive and discriminating religious tastes that are not easily satisfied. This applies both to the leaders who harness the power of the church for their own ends and to those who would rather walk away from the whole mess. I am not talking about staying in a toxic environment, but about learning to love and have patience with those in our family who are not on the same page as we are. We as Church have a responsibility to be buddies to those who are unable to help themselves, those who have been disabled by the challenges of life, and those who have fallen victim to the bad choices they and those around them have made. The world is an unforgiving place; the church should not be. I am not excusing the horrible behaviour of church leaders, but are we any less horrible when we curse them and disown them? It is easy to walk away. It is really, really hard to have the courage to stay and fight for the beauty of unconditional love. Everybody needs a buddy.

Check out the website: Dream Catchers

This is Dean and my nephew hitting some balls a few summers ago. One of them is a good baseball player, the other...not so much.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

letter to pain

Every once in a while, a not so pleasant thought flits through my mind. It is when I remember something bad that has happened in my past. How someone has hurt me, treated me with disrespect, or disappointed me. How I have lost someone or something that I used to love and enjoy. How I failed or got something horribly wrong. My mind skips over a few of the details from the past and flicks its tongue over the bitter taste of the experience. It can't resist poking the empty hole where something used to live, like a tooth that has been extracted.

I usually let the mind have its little foray, which can include some well-executed words (what I would like to say to those who caused me pain), an indulgent pang of longing for what used to be, and a brief moment of self-pity. Then I tell the thoughts to move along, and we get back to reality. I know that these thoughts will decrease over time as I walk forward in grace, so I don't give much thought to their appearance a few times a week. However, a few days ago I realised that by letting my soul walk over the scab, even if only for a moment, I was in fact disrupting the healing process and prolonging the time it would take me to recover. So this week, when that old visitor of remembered hurt came knocking, I wrote a letter.

Dear Pain of My Past:

I forgive you. I do not hold anything against you. I remember everything that happened, but there is no revenge or anger attached to it. I do not need to vent or let you know how you made me feel, nor do I wish bad things into your life as a penalty for my pain. I live in the most gracious presence of a holy God, and I extend that presence to you. I do not remember you with regret. I choose to think of the good times with joy and the bad times with loving understanding that none of us walk a perfect path. Though I cannot turn a blind eye to the dark and destructive nature of evil, I know that carrying a light is the only way to render it powerless. So I embrace the light of loving truth and shine it on both you and me.

My story is not finished. It has not always been a pretty story, but I do not want to erase you from the pages. You are being written into this chapter and the next as a milestone in my maturity and a catalyst for enlarging my ability to love. Your story is not finished, either. I pray that you, too, will become a more mature person, changed by an encounter with grace. Every time I think of you, I will bless you and not curse you. Every time you come to mind, I will smile in wonder at the mysterious ways that God draws us to himself. I am free from the need to revisit the scene of the crime and stare at its ugliness. I am free from the shadow of depression that accompanies each visit. I am free from all side-effects of this pain because love is stronger than it all. You can no longer steal anything from me, because I am loved and I love you. Peace to you. Peace to me. Peace can go where understanding cannot. I live in peace.

The moment I started reading this letter, I could feel wholeness take the place of hurt. The visitor has not come around much since then.

This is a photo of some nifty note cards given to me by a family member.