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Building relationships

To all the boys I’ve loved before…

love-lessons

I have spent much of my life trying to figure out what love looks like.

 

For so long I was mesmerized by the Disney princess tales of Prince Charming and knights on white horses. I lived for the glittery romance and thrilling passion of these love stories.

 

Over the years I have discovered that the real life versions of these stories come with so much more trials and heartbreak.

 

The frogs seem to outnumber the princes.

The days spent in high castles waiting to be rescued seem to be endless.

The happily ever after often requires tears and compromise and a whole lot of things which must be written in the fine print in the Disney tales.

 

But as brutal as it is, I love the tragedy of our real life love stories. I love the high stakes, the tangible expressions, the depth that cartoons cannot begin to capture.

 

I just wish I had known love wasn’t meant to be hard.

 

I think love should be soft like freshly washed sheets and warm like the morning sunshine on your back. Love should be gentle like a boat bobbing along a small stream and safe like your bedroom when a storm is battering outside on the windows.

 

You shouldn’t have to make them want to be with you. They should just want to be with you.

 

You shouldn’t have to become someone else for them. They should just love you for the wonderful person that you are.

 

You shouldn’t have to try so hard because love should be easy.

 

And so with this in mind I wanted to reminisce on my past loves…the lessons I’ve learnt from them and the poems they inspired.

love lessons, heartbreak lessons, to all the boys I've loved before, relationship advice, relationships, love, finding love, poetry, love poems,

To the ones that didn’t know I existed…

 

Oh how I obsessed over you. If you only knew all the silly nicknames I gave you. If you could only see all the journals I covered with your name.

 

You gave me a first glimpse of the intensity of love.

 

You showed me just how overwhelming, confusing and all-consuming these feelings can be. You taught me that I can bounce back rather quickly from heartbreak and that crushes aren’t really love at all. 

 

Crushes are superficial and hardly ever based on facts. Whereas, love is substantial, built on truth and knowing more about someone than their favourite ice cream flavour.

 

To the one who didn’t want me…

 

I tried to be the girl for you, oh I tried so hard.

 

I laughed at your jokes before I understood the punchline. I walked at your pace even though my legs were working twice as hard as yours. I listened intently when you talked about politics though I thought it was about as interesting as watching the washing machine swirl my clothes around.

 

I suppose it’s not your fault, I fell for you and you didn’t even know it. But that’s the way you are, stuck inside your head you leave little room for emotions. So of course you had no inkling of mine.

 

But you taught me what a gift it is to feel so strongly. What I take for granted is such a struggle for some. You reminded me how precious it is to know love and how difficult yet thrilling it is to express it.

love-lessons

 

To the one who wanted to be ‘just friends…’

 

I thought you were different. I thought this time it might stick. I thought perhaps if I wished it hard enough, you would want me enough to stay.

 

But I was wrong.

 

We should have only ever been friends. You shouldn’t have toyed with my heart the way you did. You should have been honest from the start instead of allowing me to push you into a relationship you weren’t interested in.

 

But you taught me how much it hurts to love someone that doesn’t feel the same. And you reminded me how good it feels to love so even though losing you almost tore me in two, I knew I would search forever to find someone who would let me love them like you couldn’t.

love-lessons

 

To the one who loved me back…

 

I promised myself I’d never write soppy love poems or I’d certainly never publish them but for you I will make an exception.

 

Because I cannot talk about heartbreak and hopeless love without mentioning how it feels when it goes right.

 

So here it is. You are my sunshine, my safe place and my favourite song I could keep singing all day long.

 

You taught me how to love myself again. You showed me what trust looks like. You made vulnerability seem so effortless. You took the hardest thing in the world- opening up my heart again- and made it feel like the easiest.

love-lessons


 

It has always frustrated me that we have to live life forwards. With the knowledge we gain, in hindsight we would do things so differently.

 

But that’s the way life is. We can’t dwell on the past but rather try our best to make the future better.

 

It gives me great joy to know that the experiences I’ve had and the lessons I’ve learnt because of them have shaped me into the person who I am today. And that through these experiences I can help others learn from my mistakes and hopefully do better than me.

 

And so I hope that this will be true for you.

 

That you will continue to love with your whole heart but to only share it with those truly deserving of it.

 

Remember, love is really quite simple…if they love you, they’ll make sure you know it.

Craving community and the cost of real connection

craving-connection-the-cost-of-real-community

 

When I think of community I am reminded of those big cheesy quilts that hang in libraries, town halls and council offices. With pieces of fabric cut into various shapes representing the famous landmarks of the town. Smiley faces of children waving from playgrounds. Buses winding up and down the thin strips of grey material. Cotton bud clouds, rippling streams, parks with cheery swing sets.

It’s a picture of happiness, warmth and safety.

 

A wonderful reminder of what it looks like when we do this thing right.

 

This mish-mash of colour, texture and patterns requires an experienced hand to sew it all together. Because traditionally, quilts are made in small squares, then these individual pieces are slotted together and sewn to create one masterpiece.

 

Each person works on their square, stitching themself into it.

 

Some sew tight, neat little stitches, bound up like the tension they hold in their shoulders. Some sew large, loose stitches. Looping carelessly, lighter than a feather.

And somehow these mismatching segments have to pair up at the ends and complete the square pattern.


 

Community is a funny thing. This group of imperfect people getting together and attempting to create something beautiful and worth celebrating.

 

At times it can feel like more of a shambles than a beautiful quilt.

The strain of different stories and mismatching beliefs creating gathers and tucks instead of smooth seams.

 

This world is full of messy, broken people, desperately trying to fit in. More than anything we just want to belong. We just want people to love and accept us.

 

But more often than not, I feel like I don’t fit in.

 

I often feel embarrassed that I cannot hold myself together. I frequently assume I’m the only one who is coming apart at the seams. Perhaps I am, or it may be that I’m the only one who’s being honest.

 

Is it really true that you feel fine every time someone asks you how you are doing? Do you really have nothing that you are afraid of? Nothing you are longing for? Nothing that rattles you or causes you to lose sleep at night?

 

Am I really the only one who feels like a mess?

 

Seems unlikely.

 

The truth is that we think we need to have it all together. We need to don these masks and keep our worries to ourselves so as not to burden the rest of the world with our problems.

 

We think we are the only ones who are struggling. We believe it’s our responsibility to gather up these crumbly bits of our lives and carry them all on our own. This is our cross to bear and we clutch it tightly. 

 

We’re afraid that if we let others see our broken pieces they’ll be overwhelmed or judgmental. Or that they will reject us and our cumbersome baggage. 


 

But I’m so tired of living this way.

 

I hate feeling like I’m the only one whose cheese is always falling off of their cracker.

I hate being the only one who gives their whole heart in every conversation.

 

I’m craving authenticity like oxygen. I thirst for honesty like a cool drink of water. I’m desperately hungry for a taste of realness.

Give me more of your imperfections, your mistakes and your shortcomings. I need to breathe again.  

 

Can’t you see that these are the things that make us human? Don’t you know that these are the threads that connect us to one another?

 

community, the cost of real connection, friendship, relationships, love, finding friends, vulnerability

 

This world has become far too scripted, airbrushed and filtered, it’s hard to tell what’s real anymore. We put up walls and we get defensive. We keep each other at arm’s length and avoid deeper conversations. We beat around bushes and we stick to polite small talk. 

 

This is not real love. This is not real community.

 

We need to be all in.

 

Giving everything regardless of what we get in return. We need to be there to cheer for one another in the high points. We need to be a shoulder to cry on in the low points. We need to pray for, fight for and root for one another.

 

Because what I do know is this…I can’t get enough of people who let me see them fully. I’m like a moth drawn to a flame. This kind of honesty is irresistible.


 

And what I’ve noticed is something beautiful happens as we co-exist. As we rub up alongside one another we begin to adopt pieces of everyone around us. A phrase from one person, a gesture from another.

 

Rather than those separate quilt squares stitched together, we become like this beautiful tapestry. We are interwoven. Threaded through each other. We become so much a part of one another’s stories that it’s hard to tell where one person starts and another ends.

 

That’s the vision I have for my community. Tightly bound, bright and colourful, not easily unraveled.

 

Creating community like this is all of our responsibility. And it takes hard work. Building trust doesn’t happen overnight. It takes patience and persistence. We have to start showing up with our masks off. Make-up free. Walls down.

 

We have to be willing to be seen. We have to allow ourselves to be known. It’s unnerving, uncomfortable and at times painful but a thriving community cannot be matched in its’ wonder.

 

And it starts with you.

 

Open your heart, your curtains, your door. Let the light in on those cobwebbed corners of your living room. Sit face to face with the steam rising from your cups of coffee. Link fingers, hold hands, wrap your arms around them.

 

Suddenly, we are one.

 

One body, one voice, one heart.

 

“Courage gives us a voice and compassion gives us an ear. Without both, there is no opportunity for empathy and connection.” – Brene Brown

The gift of our diversity

the-gift-of-our-diversity

I am ignorant. I am naïve. My mind is narrow and my knowledge is limited. I see the unfamiliar as threatening. The unknown as alarming. In my bubble of consistency and uniformity I am safe.

 

But I’m slowly learning what lies beyond the unfamiliar, uncertain and uncommon is extraordinary.

 

If we always colour within the lines, if we only stick with what we know, we risk missing out on the fullness of life.

 

When we step outside our comfort zone, when we sit and listen to those who look and sound nothing like us…we experience something beautiful. We realize that we really aren’t that different after all.

 


 

We’ve recently moved into a new neighbourhood and I decided that I would like to take this fresh start as an opportunity to get to know my neighbours properly. Previously, I’ve missed that acceptable window in which to become acquainted with my neighbours and so I lived beside them for years without ever knowing their names or their stories.

 

This time had to be different. So I started small. I baked a batch of apple and cinnamon muffins, nothing flashy or obnoxious and we went over to introduce ourselves.

 

We were greeted by a smiling Chinese woman and her daughter. I rambled an introduction nervously before realizing that she didn’t speak English and couldn’t understand a word I’d just said. Fortunately, her daughter translated for us and kindly ushered us in for a cup of tea.

 

We stepped into their lounge and sat gingerly on the edge of their couch while they boiled the kettle and pulled cups and teapots together. The TV was blaring in a language foreign to my ears. There were strange figures forming a shrine on the mantelpiece. The cup was tiny and made of glass which burnt my fingers as I picked it up.

 

I felt myself shuffling uncomfortably as one who has traveled infrequently and only to countries which speak English.

 

But as we sipped our tea, breathing in the sweet scent and sharing in this sacred ceremony our guards started slipping. Our differences became less noticeable. Our exquisite humanity knitted us together.

 

We began to share our stories, where we came from, what we love to do, what makes us unique and what makes us the same. We sat and chatted in broken English and messy Chinese and came away an hour later with two new friends and a dinner invitation for later that week.

 


 

And it was over dinner that I realized the significance of food and friendship in our lives. That something as simple as a batch of muffins can enable two families to build bridges and forge a relationship.

Because gathered around the table with the pink plastic cover, the mismatching chairs, the delicately painted bowls and thin wooden chopsticks, we were a picture of heaven. Regardless of our nationality, native tongue or chosen religion, we gathered here.

It is around a table that communion becomes real.

 

“Here we break bread and receive one another. We set aside our differences, our grievances and we are one.  This is love. This is Jesus. This is heaven touching earth.”

 

There’s a lot of talk these days about right and wrong. We search relentlessly for answers, for truth, for the moral high ground.

But all of this seems to just lead us further into segregation. We are divided by our opinions and our pride. We can’t see past our narrowminded views and we can’t step down from our high horses.

 

There are plenty of people who go through the motions, who obey the regulations, who colour within the lines.

But when we’re so busy polishing our church shoes and pointing fingers, we miss the big picture.

 

We are all the same and infinitely different. We carry separate dreams, fears and failings. But we are bound to one another in love. That’s the way it was always meant to be.

Beneath all of our arrogance, insecurities, doubts and fragility is a beating heart seeking connection.

 


 

Too often we let things stop us from reaching out, from crossing the street or baking a batch of muffins. But I’ve tasted and seen that God is good. I know now that this way is the best way.

 

“Welcoming strangers and making friends. Picking up the stragglers and inviting them in. Humbling ourselves and letting others go first.”

 

That’s what Jesus did and that’s what he’s asked us to do too.

 

And as much as I’d like to keep my head down and my blinds drawn… I simply cannot ignore this call. And now I’ve got a taste of it I really can’t stop.

 

I keep getting these heart nudges to be the one to say hello, to ask someone to join in, to give without getting anything in return.

 

And what I’ve found is as much as I give, it’s returned to me pressed down, shaken together, running over. That’s the way it is, we give the little we have and get immeasurably more in return.

 

So we can play it safe, we can colour within the lines and do only what is necessary or we can move beyond our bubbles of consistency and uniformity. We can move towards the unknown, uncommon and unfamiliar because it is there that we find one of those delightful thin places where heaven meets earth.

 

That’s the gift of our diversity.

the-gift-of-our-diversity

P.S. Welcome to the new blog! I hope you like what you’ve seen so far. In this space I’m going to be writing about living intentionally, building relationships and finding encouragement for your everyday life and I’d love to have you stick around for more. Feel free to Follow my blog with Bloglovin, connect on Facebook or follow along behind the scenes on Instagram.