Free Love

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

C.S. Lewis, in his Screwtape letters, talks about "Free Love"
Free love is when we give to someone else, out of pure love,
not in an attempt to get something back,
nor thinking of what we will get out of the transaction.

Free Love is not usual.
Free love is not something we do on accident.
No, we are manipulators.

If we are honest with ourselves, we will see ourselves always thinking of the end goal.
People will think I'm a good Christian.
Others will notice how much I give.
They will call me successful.
She will love me back.
He will accept me.

Free love is when I love Christopher when he does not deserve it.
When I love him when he is tired, worn, smelly, and without energy to love back.

It's so easy to love him when I come home to candles and a cooked meal.
It's so easy to love him when he makes a funny joke, and has a half smile.
It's so easy to love him when I have nothing else on my plate, stress-free.

It is when he is bogged down with bills, plans, and focused else-where...
I suddenly don't want to give love.
I don't want to slow down to ask what is worrying him.
I don't want to have a soft tone, touch his shoulder, and tell him it will be okay.

Instead, I am really, embarrassingly selfish.
What about my worries? 
What about my hard day at work?
What about my big decisions?

Free love is something only God demonstrates perfectly.
God, who adopted us as His own when we were still sinners.

Free love is loving God when we are going through trials.
Free love is loving God when things are hard,
the desert is dry,
and we are uncomfortable.

Free love is what leads to Obedience,
and obedience leads us to Joy.

“Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.” 
C.S. Lewis -The Screwtape Letters

Heaven is here

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

I sat listening to the audio of a Al-Anon Speaker in front of my class of families in recovery. 
The speaker had already taught me more than I thought I had ever taught the group. 
It was nearing the end of our hours together and I was ready to turn off the tape 
when her voice rang out, 

"We were sitting in Bible Study one night, 
and we were talking about what Heaven would be like...
you know, about how broccoli would taste like chocolate and that intellectual stuff...
when my husband suddenly said, 
'What if heaven is right here, and we are f---ing it up.'"

Heaven is right here. 
Heaven is in my drive home from work
when the hills roll to my apartment and I get a glimpse of Clinton Lake. 

Heaven is when my clients understand something new about themselves. 
Heaven is coming home to my husband.
It is sitting next to him on a comfortable couch with food to fill our stomachs. 
Heave in reconnecting with an old friend.
Heaven is crunchy fall leaves on my walk to my car.
Heaven is a warm room of believers, sharing what God has been whispering to them.
Heaven is all around me...and I mess it up everyday. 

I create my own unhappiness almost daily. 
I do it through comparison,
and through focusing on my past mistakes until I cannot move on. 
I do it through holding onto a grouchy attitude 
and believing even for one second that I'm not good enough. 
Fear. Pride.

I know these are Satan's ways of keeping me from noticing the Heaven around me. 

And I really hate the way he steals from me. 
He steals my time. He steals my possibility.
The negativity bleeds into my relationships.
The negativity drains the colors.

My fight is to remember the overflowing Joy and connection
I can have if I just ask for it. 

The creator of Heaven is trying to tell me how much he loves me.
How much I matter.
How much worth I have.
Believing his loving whispers is part of my process.


Friday, 2 October 2015

My drive home is the first quiet moment of the day.

I remember a counselor told me in graduate school that her drive home was her self care.
She had a special CD she would listen to and unwind.
I remember all the words--boundaries, leave work at work, burn out prevention.

But it feels too late for all that. 

As a substance abuse counselor relapse is the enemy.
Going through a relapse with a client is painful.
There is loss of time,
loss of confidence.

Hopelessness emerges again,
it's nails digging deep into the work.
My work, her work, our fight for her life.

I drive and
I feel overwhelmed, lost, and terrified.
I feel so close to tears, but the tears won't come.
I'm not sleeping well. I'm not eating right,
and my own anxiety is suffocating.

I go home for two hours, and then drive to the nearest Al-Anon meeting.
I never would have considered myself a friend or family member of an addict,
but I know now that never was and never will be true.

Tired desperation fuels my mission as I park in front a church I've never been to.
There are plenty of cars parked.
Plenty of others needing encouragement.

I find the meeting in a small tiled floor through a church hallway.
I know where to go only because I can hear laughter and loud conversations.
I walk in and I am instantly greeted by "Welcome!" and "Sit here!"
I know from experience that I can walk into an Al-Anon meeting anywhere
and feel at home and accepted.

I feel a sameness with this group of strangers.
Their stories touch me in my core beliefs:
No, I can't be a good enough counselor--
No, my performance isn't going to keep her from drinking--
Yes, I feel a toll of this stress on my body--
Yes, it hurts. It's unmanageable.

The tears finally come.
I leave feeling recognized, cared for, and noticed.
I leave feeling like I can do this thing for at least another week,
and I'm only responsible for me, believing I can face it all 
with help from God. 

11 Months

Saturday, 22 August 2015

I remember the first time I met you. You were sitting cross-legged on the floor of bible study basement in skinny jeans and an old pair of TOM's. Your hair was sun-bleached and it curled a bit at the ends. I thought you were so funny. I didn't think I had ever met anyone like you ever, at all.

I remember the first time you talked to me. Like all church kids, we were spending time in a large group. It was Fall, and I had decided last minute to catch a ride with some friends and come to the Cider Mill on a Sunday afternoon. I was happy to see you there, tall and constantly on the move. You would flit from place to place, talking to everyone, making them laugh. I desperately wanted you to talk to me, too. I got my food and sat on a hay bell next to one of your friends. Your friend and I talked for a little bit, and then the three of us figured out we had one thing in common--we were all Starbucks baristas. 

I remember the first time we spent time together. You invited me and a friend over and I almost didn't go. I was nervous and wanted to change my mind, I thought a Starbuck's White Mocha and K-State football on TV sounded safer. My friend talked me into meeting you, and after she helped me pick out an outfit we did. We watched "What Women Want." I was so thrilled to be near you.

I remember a lot of happy times with you, and the happiest time wasn't our wedding day, or even the first day I woke up as Mrs. Danielle Melton. I think the happiest times with you is when you pick me up for lunch, give me a kiss and a break from my life as a helper. When you tell me to keep writing and you remind me to never give up on my dreams. When we plan our future adventures together and imagine all the possibilities we have ahead of us. When I come through the Starbucks drive-thru just so I can hold your hand at the window and tell you I love you. When we eat dinner on the floor, or when you surprise me and drive me to the lake so we can listen to the waves as we eat sandwiches. When you text me inside jokes from when we were dating, and when you remember to buy me dark chocolate at the store.  

Happy 11 months of marriage, you. You're my favorite and there's still no one like you ever at all. 

Almond Sugar Cookies

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Christopher and I have been watching a lot of food shows lately. 
"Good Eats," "Cut Throat Kitchen" and "Chef's Table" to name a few. 

Yes. We are way too involved with Netflix. Let's just move on.

Sometimes after we finish watching something particularly inspiring (usually a documentary). Christopher and I talk about possibilities for ourselves. How could we do something so grand with our lives? What if we snubbed the idea that we have to be good at everything we touch, and instead focus all of our energy into being good at one, just one, thing.

For Christopher, it always comes back to coffee.

"What if I had a coffee shop, 
and we only served one kind of pastry--your almond cookies, a day old." 

Christopher is always dreaming, always thinking of future possibilities, and always planning. I will come home from work and open the computer to find tabs and tabs of research he has done on cities he wants to live in someday. He has done research on Boulder, Seattle, and every city along the ocean in Southern California. He has a mind that is made up to go somewhere beautiful. 

He is my dreamer. 

My favorite kind of adventure is one that includes coffee and pastries. 
One that includes Christopher and Danielle. So when he mentioned a coffee shop that sold something I bake---I immediately joined in on the imagining.

This is the lesson I've learned: My husband is always, always going to be a dreamer. He is always going to be thinking of more adventure, ways to have more effect on the world around him. I can either be annoyed that his focus is somewhere other than our small world in Lawrence, Kansas...or I can join him in the dreaming and be part of it.

I have to remember that I'm always his first consideration in every future he sees.

Here's my recipe for my Almond Sugar Cookies.
These are the cookies I baked when Christopher left town to participate in his Barista Competition for Starbucks. These are the cookies I bake when Christopher and I are spending a Sunday watching food shows and snuggling our pup.

These are the cookies that say, "I missed you," "I love you," and "I'm so darn proud to be yours."

Almond Sugar Cookies:
Cookies: 2 cups all purpose flour; 1 tsp baking powder; 1/4 tsp salt; 1/2 cup unsalted butter; 1 cup sugar; 1 tsp almond extract
Sift flour, baking powder,  and salt. Set aside.
Cream butter & sugar in your stand mixer until smooth. Mix in egg and almond.
Slowly (slowly!) add in dry ingredients, mixing on low as you go.

Refrigerate at least 1 hour (up to 12).
(I like to just stick my entire mixing bowl, covered, in the fridge).
Pull out of the fridge and give it another good mix with your stand mixer.
This will help get it back into a nice little dough ball.
Roll out the dough (1/4") and cut into whatever cookie shapes your heart desires.
Bake 8-10 minutes.

Icing: 1 1/4 cup confectioners sugar; 2 tbs milk; 1 tsp almond extract;food coloring if you wish.Mix together and spread over cooled cookies.(If you like a thinner, more old fashioned icing only use 1/4 c. of the confectioners sugar).

All the Creative Ladies

Thursday, 16 April 2015

There is nothing I love more than to see someone doing what they love.

photo & artwork by Jordan Rae Designs

Doing what you're passionate about is the best kind of Self-Care.
More than bubble baths, alone time, or going on a run,
doing what I love makes me feel....complete.

There's a distinct feeling that comes with connecting to 
what we're made to do.
It feels electric, like a new energy source.

I think that thing each of us is passionate about is a gift God gave us.
I believe creativity is a way to connect to Him.

Writing is it for me.
When I sit down and write, I feel like the best version of myself.
When I write I connect to a deeper heartbeat that lets me breathe.
When I'm able to express myself through words I feel known.

I know when I'm in a healthy place, because I write more.
But sometimes writing takes courage for me.

Blogging doesn't look like it used to.
Sometimes I compare my blog to others and it seems...outdated.
Sometimes I feel like deleting everything and starting over.

That's when I try remember why I started blogging in 2009.
I wanted to create a place for honesty.
I wanted to be truthful about my struggles and successes.
Because I believe honesty creates more honesty.

Comparison is one thing that steals from what we love.
Comparison makes compassion nearly impossible.

There are a number of women with blogs and talents.
Some of them help me believe in my writing when I want to quit.
Some of them help me remember Who my creativity comes from.

These are the ladies who inspire me to keep writing:

Jordan is one of my dearest friends from junior high, and she just happens to be one of the most beautiful women I know. Her joy and love are obvious. She's a mom of two who uses nap time to paint beautiful family portraits. It's apparent what the important things in life are for her. 

Faith is another friend of mine from our school days. She's one of the most talented hair stylists in Kansas City. She's one of the lucky few who gets to do what she loves all day everyday. One thing I love about her is she does what she loves to the highest level. She's always learning new things about her art and always one of the first to try something new.

Alisha is a writer who uses Instagram and her blog to convey beautiful messages. Her writing is so lovely and magical. She gives me courage to believe that my words matter, too.

Stephanie is the author of The Lipstick Gospel. She also thought up the #loveliesthings365--an effort to help her followers on Instagram look for things to be grateful for every single day. She is always so encouraging and honest. She helps me to never give up on my dream of writing a book.

Love You

Friday, 6 February 2015

My friend Patty Kirk said this
in her book The Easy Burden of Pleasing God

"Look at the unhappiest people you now
and you are sure to notice some crucial 
lack or loss of love at the root of it all.
Childhood abandonment or rejection.
The loss--through death or debilitating illness or adultery--of someone beloved.
An overwhelming sense of being unlovable.
A self image so damaged as to prevent one from loving even oneself."

As a counselor I think this is on point.
I see the struggle to love ourselves everyday--
and not just at work.

I see the struggle in myself all day long.
I see myself push others who want to love me away
because I don't feel lovable.

I wake up everyday and easily find something wrong--
with my body, with my work performance, with my identity as a wife.
Even after years of working on insecurity and negative self-talk,
I still find it there every time I let down my guard.
I don't love myself.

Feeling unlovable makes me want to hide,
to pretend to be better than I am.
To shy away from community, new friends.
To distance myself from my husband, physically and emotionally.
I feel more and more alone this way,
less and less loved.

For me it comes back to seeing myself though God's eyes--
to listening to my husband when he tells me I'm beautiful, and believing him.
to continually fighting against insecurity, pride, and vanity,
to find contentment with my own strengths, instead of comparing them to others.

Love is kind (even to ourselves)
Love does not envy.
Love does not boast.