Help for the Winter Blues

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My friend Cassie is, like me, a bit of a word freak. Years ago, she taught me a new, old word; one that’s so old in fact, it’s not used anymore. And that’s a shame because it’s a good one, particularly, if you struggle to manage January’s long, dark hours.

The word is apricity and it means the warmth of the sun in winter.

A delightful word for a delightful thing, as Merriam-Webster describes it, the word apricity entered the lexicon in the 17th century, but evidently, never caught on. It is not found in any modern dictionary.

It was cold in Texas over the weekend, but clear and blue, just like it is, minus the snowdrifts, in the high plains desert of New Mexico or the Colorado Rockies. I recall a thousand times, pausing on my cross country skis in the still, white silence of the Blanco Basin and turning my face to the sun, letting the warmth of it settle into my bones, like glitter fluttering to the ground on New Year’s Eve.

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Sam enjoying apricity. – Blanco Basin. Colorado. 2007

Yesterday, I headed out with my dogs, and as I walked out of the shade of our pine grove, the sun hit my back.

Apricity! I thought, and a little shiver rolled up my spine. It made me think of Cassie too. She’s an artist and I wonder if she’s ever painted how apricity feels.

As I walked around the lake, the breeze rustled the bullrushes and I stopped and looked up, staring at a sky I’d call Colorado blue. It only occurs certain times of year in Texas, and it’s beautiful particularly when the trees, stripped of their leaves, stand naked in contrast to it.

I felt the Lord saying, Look up! Keep looking up. That’s where the beauty and promise is. And yet, how often, when I’m discouraged, do I fix my eyes on the asphalt and mud.

When we are dark and cold – wrestling with depression, fear or discouragement – we can always look up and let the sun hit our faces. Apricity is free.

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But some days the sun just isn’t out. So, here are two other strategies:

Kindness:

My pastor often says, when you’re feeling shriveled and dry, like that wrinkled, creepy guy – Gollum – in Lord of the Rings, the antidote is to squeeze out a drop or two of kindness from whatever reservoir you have left. Hold a door for a stranger, let another driver in your lane. Encourage someone – anyone. Tell someone they have a lovely smile. It’s amazing what torrents of living water rush through you after you have watered someone else. Especially when you don’t feel like it.

Community:

Have you seen that meme on Facebook this week, where people are offering a cup of tea and a listen to anybody feeling depressed in the dark hours of the new year? What a smart impulse.

When the darkness beckons us back into bed, to dwell on all the things that are not, people on Facebook are offering a “cuppa” as my British and Aussie friends call it. Who doesn’t feel better after a good cup of tea in the warmth of a friend’s living room? It’s a brave and effective way of beating back the darkness. It’s the human expression of apricity.

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After spending some time in African cultures lately, this is something I admire in them very much. The friendship. The solidarity in suffering. The impulse toward togetherness. It’s beautiful and I’m afraid we in the West have gone the opposite way – favoring privacy, individuality and solitude. Don’t get me wrong, those thing have value too, but when you’re stuck in the cold dark hours of winter, you need sunshine and friends.

Did you ever notice, Jesus never sent the disciples out alone? They always traveled at least two-by-two, and they were warmed by the light of the world.

There’s probably something to that.

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Don’t Just Grieve – Act.

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This morning, as an exercise in compassion, I imagined the crying man in this photograph is my brother. Like my actual brother.

Go ahead. Try it.

Imagine he is your brother and the photograph appeared this morning on the cover of the Dallas Morning News. The dead child is your nephew.

Or, imagine he is your next door neighbor and his dead child played with your live one yesterday.

Or maybe, the dead child is a student in your class. He died yesterday along with 17 others, when the bomb hit your school.

With pain this real, this close, would you not turn your life upside down to respond?

You would. I know you.

You would stop what you are doing and race to be with them. You would cook. You would pray. You would bring clothes. You would set up go fund me accounts. Whatever it took. You would pour your heart of compassion out on this family, this town, this school.

So what that this photograph was taken yesterday 7,100 miles away? Does that change who you are or what your heart is capable of? I don’t think so.

Don’t be discouraged. You are not helpless. He is.

So #LoveAnyway. Help this man like you would help your brother, or your neighbor, or your school. Here are a few ways to do that.

  1. Look at the picture again.Stare at it.
  2. Pray for Syria.
  3. Give to those working for peace, justice, relief.
    1. Preemptive Love Coalition
    2. Doctors Without Borders
    3. Syria Relief
    4. The White Helmets

The best way I know to deal with the heartbreak of this photograph is to take what I have in my hand and give it away.

This is Christmas.

If Valentines Day Steals Your Mojo

For all the complaining I do about Christmas, there is one holiday I love love love. It’s Valentine’s Day. Some of you, I sense, are making the gag gesture right now. Ladies, stop gagging and let’s get something out of the way:

Kay Jewelers is lying to you.

I have yet to meet one woman, (they probably exist but I’ve never met one) who is surprised with diamonds on Valentines Day by her super hot husband as she drinks champagne by candlelight.

You know what happens in the real world? Me neither, but around here, Sam Kirk draws hearts with a Sharpie on an old pizza box, tracing around the grease spots, and wraps it up with orange bailing twine to give to me as a card. If he doesn’t have a pizza box, he uses his Sharpie on case of Corona – beer missing.

And that kind of Valentine is perfect for me, because love looks different all the time and perspective is a good friend.

So let’s get us some of that, shall we?

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Now, I recognize mating is a biological imperative, and when you really want to do that but haven’t, Valentines Day can be a hard ass bouncer, rejecting you at the door for reasons he’ll leave you to imagine (and you will). So it’s not surprising February 14th can leave you feeling mopey or less than or unworthy.

But you are none of those things.

Enter Heineken. Watch the vid or what I say next won’t make sense.

Of course, it’s lame that the definition of a hero in 2016 is a guy who turns down another beer – that bar is set fairly low – but listen to the lyrics, which by the way were written in 1986.

He’s got to be strong and he’s got to be sure and he’s got to be fresh from the fight. A streetwise Hercules to fight the rising odds yes, but no mention of some dude in a hoodie and Beatz, passed out on the subway.

Before I realized this was an ad for moderate drinking, I got excited about a whole bunch of beautiful women getting up from the bar, grabbing their keys and saying “Hey pal, take your Tinder profile and shove it because I’m worth more than this.”

“Yes!” I thought. “That’s feminism.” That’s what it looks like when women reject the cheap goods they know they’re about to get from some dude who can’t hold his liquor, much less the door.

Now before I get in trouble, let me say, I am a huge fan of men. I love them, especially the good ones who know something about strength and courage and self-mastery and commitment, but it seems they are fewer and further between these days. Add “loves Jesus” to the description and the talent pool dries considerably.

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I don’t know if he loved Jesus, but here’s Paul Newman circa 1963

So what’s a smart, Jesus-loving single gal with super high standards for sex and marriage to do with all that? Especially on Valentines Day?

First the bad news:

For better or worse, when it comes to finding a mate, most things are still out of female control. Men are still the team captains, and we’re still lined up on the gym wall. Sure there are exceptions, but the rule dominates: It is theirs to ask, and ours to accept or decline. The problem is, waiting to be picked is a powerless stance – one that’s especially difficult for women who are quite powerful in other areas of their lives.

I think this is deeply motivating fear for a lot of women. It was for me.

Will I get asked? What if I don’t get asked? What’s wrong with me that I haven’t been picked? There’s that Sports Illustrated model, of course she’ll get picked. Look at her abs, maybe I should do situps. Maybe then I’ll get picked.

It’s hardly cut and dried though. Countless women are stoked to be single and they’ll cite dozens of reasons for it. In fact, I was one of them too. My singleness allowed me space and time to travel around the world and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Yet, at a secret level, those questions still dogged me.

So it’s tricky territory. And maybe some of you are scoffing, saying “Hello it’s 2016 not 1950, and dating apps give women all the control in the world.” Do they? Or have they just increased the ease and speed with which people can hook up with strangers and be disappointed by them? Seems Tinder and Hinge have redefined the term “first date” so thoroughly, it’s unrecognizable as a concept, and women have to pretend they don’t care.

But most women I know care a lot, especially about things like respect, trust, mutuality and duration and they’re kind of disgusted with the whole show. Unfortunately, that getting picked thing is a powerful driver and sometimes, smart, strong women settle for deals they secretly know are just wrong for them.

Ladies. Don’t do it. Hold out. Because here’s the good news:

YOU’VE ALREADY BEEN PICKED!

If you choose to accept what Jesus said and did, you already are beloved, chosen, precious and royal. 

But you have to believe it, before you see it, and that’s the hard part. Imagine the deals we’d reject if we could dwell permanently in this spiritual reality, remembering at crucial moments that, in fact, we are worth dying for.

It’s mystical and abstruse and four-dimensional and fathoms deeper than the roses and diamonds kind of love that even the Christian radio stations hum with on Valentines Day.

But when you’ve been filled with the love of God, when you’ve sat long enough with him to be steeped in the fullness of joy, you own something deep and inviolable, and you begin to operate out of that place, like a Queen in her court. Not with pride, with power.

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Queen Mother. Photo Credit: The Telegraph

This is a long way of saying my Queens, if you are single on Valentines Day because you’re maintaining a high standard for your life and the people you allow in it…

GO YOU!

Use Valentines Day to celebrate that hard work. Keep rejecting the deals that are beneath you. Get to know the woman God says you are and repeat it a thousand times a day if you must. Then shove every offer you get through that filter, to see what comes out. Make your choices accordingly.

And while you’re at it, go get your girls. Put on your sparkly dresses, red lipstick and favorite shoes, then go celebrate the fact you’re holding out for a hero – one who believes the same thing about you that God does.

Amen.