Monday, April 23, 2012

Cry Baby

Can we talk about crying?

I don't know about you, but I have always been a crier. I cry at EVERYthing. Happy, sad, neutral...I cry. It doesn't take much. For most of my life, I was led to believe (and I internalized it) that this meant I was "too sensitive" and I needed to toughen up. That's just the general attitude of society...not blaming anyone in particular here...that's just how it is. As a result of internalizing that, I've felt like a wimpy little failure a lot of the time. Angry at myself that I couldn't just make myself have a thicker skin. And if you identify as a crier, you probably know what I'm talking about.

But what if by wanting to change that, I was rejecting the unique gift that God quilted into my soul?

What if my urges to cry were actually promptings and whisperings of the Holy Spirit?

What if by trying to suppress my tears, I wasn't just burning my eyes, but also my spirit and grieving the Spirit of God?

When Mr. Ford and I were going through our pre-marital counseling, we talked a lot about certain things that grieve my heart. Keith, our pastor, looked directly at me, bore into my soul, and said with a fierceness I knew meant I should heed this counsel, "Give expression to those emotions". I nodded and immediately tears came. And he saw this and urged, "Give expression to it, dear one. Give expression to it no matter where you are or who you are with."

Slowly, over the last eight or nine months, that has begun to internalize...and replace the 25 years of internalization that crying was bad and that I needed to stop being so sensitive. (Have you ever noticed how much disdain that phrase carries when it is uttered? It's so demeaning.) But it hasn't been until the last month or so that I have really begun to grasp the full weight of what it means to give expression to those whispers.

It has completely turned my perspective on life on it's head. My life in particular.

Here's the thing. One of my spiritual gifts is discernment. On every gifts test I have ever taken in my 26 years in church, I have scored very high in discernment. And I see it in my everyday life. And I realized, again with the help of Keith, that these emotions are promptings from the Holy Spirit that there is a wound or a need or some brokenness in my presence. And this grieves my spirit. And so I cry. I weep. It is my soul giving expression to the groanings that are too deep for words. This is worthy. It is NOT shameful. And from this point forward, I refuse to accept that attitude from any source.

When I cry, when I give expression to these groanings, I am interceding on behalf of those who are too broken to do so for is my worthy and holy calling that the Creator God gave me, Ashley Ford, to help heal the broken and do kingdom work. And even, sometimes, it is the only way to intercede on my own behalf. When words fail me, my spirit groans, and my tears are my prayers. And the Father hears these prayers...oh, how He hears them. And He loves them.

This may seem small...but it is the small things that make up the whole. And in that, they are not small. This privilege is, for me, everything. It is my life's work. More than being a wife or, God willing, someday a mother. This calling informs those callings. And I am blessed by this. It has changed everything for me.

Why do I share this with you?

In hopes that if you, like me, are a "crier", you will be encouraged. That you will find purpose and worthiness in that crying. That you will, from this day forward, give expression to it. And every emotion. Laughter holds the same weighty worthiness. Do not run from it. Do not suppress it. It is the very Spirit of God moving in you and whispering to your heart, "Here is the work I have prepared for you." Do not ignore that. And do not allow the lies of the world, even if they are coming from an otherwise trustworthy source, to convince you that this is a weakness and to shame you into not expressing what God has placed in your heart.

This is a divine imperative, which has more weight than any worldly imperative, familial imperative, or even "churchy" imperative. It is my response to my Savior and ultimately, isn't that what this Christ-follower life is about? Responding? A response to what He did for us at Calvary and to His resurrection and to the way He moves in our lives and in our world.

Often, I respond by weeping. And the Lord smiles and says, "Well done, good and faithful servant".

 How do you respond?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Canine Love Letter

Have I ever told you about my dog? He's pretty amazing. His name is Tootles and he is a Chiweenie...a chihuahua/dachshund mix. No, he is not named for Mickey's Mousketools helper on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (what? I'm a nanny and I have nieces and a nephew, back off!), but rather for the Lost Boy in Peter Pan. He is my little Lost Boy and I am his mother.

He is sweet, funny, neurotic, cuddly, weird, and very in tune with his humans.

His favorite thing is to be constantly touching one of us. If he can manage to be touching both of us at the same time, he's even happier. He likes to curl up into a tight little ball and be as close as he can possibly get. He will squirm and curl his way into the smallest possible space just so that he is certain there is no air between him and us.

Sometimes he forgets that he has two back legs. He'll just drag them around behind him and stretch his long doxie body out as far as he can to make progress before pulling his back legs up under him. If he's traversing over you and does this, it's a completely ridiculous sight because all it does is make his life harder. But he doesn't seem to get it or care. Or both.

Sometimes I think he might be part cat because he loves to bask in the sunlight on the carpet and he'll stretch and arch his back like cats do. This always weirds me out. He reminds me of that old gross Nickelodeon cartoon, CatDog, when he does this. Do you remember that cartoon? Yeesh. It always bothered me. What a weird thing.

He refuses to eat unless he can keep tabs on us. If we are in the living room, he will go into the kitchen, get a mouth full of food, bring it out where he can see us, drop the food on the floor, and then eat it slowly while keeping an eye on us. If we are in the bedroom however, he will not eat unless one of us gets up to go in the kitchen at which point he follows us and scarfs as much as he can while we stand in the kitchen before he has to give it up to follow us back to the bedroom.

He tries to anticipate our every move in an effort to be as close to us as possible at all times. If he thinks we're headed to the couch, he'll race to it and leap up on it. He then proceeds to run back and forth on the cushions trying to decide where we'll land so that he doesn't waste anytime being curled up next to us.

If we shift positions at anytime he shifts with us but doesn't wait until we've settled back down. He always has to be glued to us, even as we're shifting. It's very awkward sometimes and makes the whole scene a little more difficult for everyone.

He will do anything for a belly-rub. Anything. He will squirm around to get into a position that leaves you with no question of what he wants exactly when he wants it. He makes it very clear that you are expected to give him a belly-rub. Right. Now.

He has the greatest brow furrow. When he's concerned or feeling playful or confused, he scrunches it up and I just can't resist it. I love a good brow furrow. Probably the main reason I married my husband as well as chose my dog. The brow furrow. I could write a love letter about brow furrows. Maybe another day...

He has Dachshund sized ears but they stick up like a Chihuahua and that coupled with his brow furrow makes me weak in the knees for my little Lost Boy.

He does what we call the crouch-waddle when he thinks he's in trouble or when he knows he doesn't get to go with us and has to go in his crate. He crouches as low to the ground as he can get and waddles his back end, which I think is him really wagging his tail, to try to hide. It's like he thinks the closer he is to the ground the less likely we are to see him and make him "go to bed".

Conversely, he thinks that the higher off the ground he is the more likely we are to see him and pet him. When we come home he immediately hops up on the arm of the couch and wags his tail so hard that his entire back half seems to swing around and hit him in the face and knocks him off the arm of the couch.

He also has a crazy high vertical jump. He will use this in an effort for us to see him better as well.

He does not like to be ignored. He will stick his face in front of the phone if we're looking at it, he will sit ON the keyboard of the computer if we're typing, and he will crawl over the book and block it if we are reading. He will get in our faces and not leave us alone until we've acknowledged him with a belly-rub or ear scratch.

He knows the cues for bedtime. When either Mr. Ford or I brush our teeth and fill our water cups from the Brita pitcher in the fridge, he knows...bedtime...and often, he'll put himself to bed. This is especially awesome.

Most incredible to me though, is his ability to know when we are in emotional distress and that we need his comfort. Maybe this is true of all dogs, but Tootles is just so good at knowing exactly when Momma needs a cuddle and he knows how to give just the right amount of cuddle in those moments. He's been there every time I've needed just some unconditional, raw love.

Dogs are just really wonderful creatures. And we love ours a whole heap. He's our little Lost Boy and he gives us so much joy and so much love and so much laughter.