Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved books. If there was a sixth love language, mine would be books. From Nancy Drew, Jo March, and Laura Ingalls Wilder, every book I devoured was like a dear old friend. Even now as an adult, I look on favorite childhood characters with fondness and sweet memories.
After listening to a recent podcast episode of a friend of mine, I realized how much I was missing out by not having acquainted myself with Anne Shirley and her adventures at Green Gables. I was very late to the Anne party.
So I began making my way through the book series. In between I watched the made for television mini-series. As I dove into the story of this red-haired, freckle faced orphan girl I was amazed how much I found myself relating to the main character on many different levels.
I could see pieces of Anne's zestful spirit in me. That is the beauty of a well-written story, when we find our own story written into the pages we read.
As I finished the series, I started reflecting on how different lessons and experiences from Anne Shirley's life have a lot of meaning for modern women today.
Making time for creative pursuits.
Anne Shirley never gives up on her dreams on becoming a writer. Her love of words, books, and writing gives her the energy to never let go of her creative dreams. Anne stuck with writing, she never gave it up. She made time for developing her writing skills as a young child when she formed a story writing club with her best friend Diana Barry.
The world is so fast moving, and often women sometimes feel like they have to sacrifice parts of themselves to get it all done or feel like they have to have it all together. As wives, mothers, friends, or professionals sometimes we are so busy doing that we forget to make time for practices that re-charge our spirit.
It is not selfish to make time for your own creative dreams and pursuits. Anne Shirley reminded me that taking time for creativity actually makes me a healthier, more loving woman in my relationships. Making time for my creative dreams makes me a better person.
Surround yourself with lasting friendships.
When Anne first moves to Green Gables, she talks Marilla Cuthbert's ear off on hoping she will soon be able to find a "true, bosom friend" in her new home; a kindred spirit like herself. Anne quickly finds such a friendship in Diana Barry, a young girl her own age from town.
Throughout the years these two have some wild, crazy adventures like Anne accidentally getting Diana drunk on currant wine or Anne dying her hair green. Over the years, they share in each other's hopes, dreams, joys, and sorrows. They share in each other's lives in lasting, rich ways. Diana even names her first-born daughter Anne, in honor of her bosom friend.
We are created as relational beings. Surrounding yourself with true, life-giving friendships is one of the best gifts to receive in life. Allow your friends to challenge you when you need it and love you when you are hurting or going through a difficult time. Intentionally make time for each other, even if its a handwritten note in the mail or a face-time date if you live far apart.
Sure friendship can be messy and awkward at times. But the most beautiful relationships are the ones where we enter into each other's lives. When we share in the beautiful mess of our lives, we see we are never really alone.
Be willing to admit when you're wrong and open to learn from it.
At the beginning of the story, readers see Anne as quite the spit-fire whose equal amount of stubbornness lands her in trouble from time to time. A prominent part of the story is the friendship to blossoming love of Anne and her schoolmate Gilbert Blythe.
Gilbert has loved Anne since their early elementary days, while showing it in funny ways like calling her "carrots" or being competitive in school. He admires her from afar and wants to be her friend. Anne easily brushes him off. As time passes and Anne matures, the two become very good friends. All the while Gilbert is falling deeper in love with Anne. Gilbert is all things the perfect gentleman: selfless, caring, very handsome, and always looking for ways to serve Anne. But Anne doesn't see Gilbert that way and continues to brush off his feelings.
After rejecting a proposal from Gilbert, both Anne and Gilbert takes different paths in life in search of their dreams. Upon retuning home from her first teaching job, Anne learns Gilbert is very sick, near death. Devastated at the news, she reflects and soon realizes she was wrong; that she is in love with Gilbert, that he could only be the one for her. When Anne sees the desire of her heart, she admits her faulty thinking and tells Gilbert. The two become engaged, marry, and live a long, rich life together.
The greatest life lessons are the ones where we can admit our wrong choices and are open to learning from the experience. It took Anne a long time to admit how wrong she was about Gilbert. When her eyes finally opened, she was able to honestly admit her fault and it became an opportunity for her to grow.
Admitting when you are wrong can be hard sometimes. That type of self-awareness takes humility and maturity. Live your life in such a way that you will never be to stubborn to apologize and own up to your mistakes.
Do you have any favorite literary characters from books?
What lessons do they hold for women today living in 2016?
I have said to close friends I am struck by the timing of all the changes in my life recently coinciding with this holy year.
It has been a rough year a lot of the time. But at the same time, it has been such a time of healing and transformation. I feel different in so many ways. I have had a crash course in forgiveness, anger, mercy, detachment, and peace all rolled into one.
I have had so many experiences, reminders that God was in the middle of the mess.
Six months after my divorce was finalized happened to fall on the feast day of St. Faustina. She is the patron saint of mercy and the promoter of the Divine Mercy devotion.
Visiting Auschwitz helped me let go of it all. In a place of such evil and suffering, I will always look back and remember it also as a place of personal freedom.
The day I moved into my apartment I realized was the feast day of St. Maxmilian Kolbe. One of my favorite saints, he died giving his life for another prisoner in Auschwitz. When I was married, I constantly asked his prayers for healing and restoration.
I have had to forgive the Catholic Church both institutionally and personally. For not speaking up more publicly on addiction issues facing families and marriages. For making me feel trapped in an unhealthy, unsafe marriage. For not offering ministry or better support to divorced Catholics. For priests and well known Catholic writers who say truly hurtful things out of ignorance.
All those times I met with my pastor in his office.
I cried, got angry, and on occasion used some choice words. He hugged me, prayed with me, and told me I know where to find him if I need to talk or pray. He spoke truth and hope into me when I had none.
I love myself more. I love God and other people better.
The Year of Mercy has helped heal and soften my heart. There is no lingering resentment, blame, or hatred. This year has purified and refined me. Yes my Patty-ness is still there, but on a deep soul level I am different.
In his Papal Bull for the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis writes:
"We are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us. Mercy is a key word that indicates God's action towards us. He does not limit himself to merely affirming his love, but makes it visible and tangible. By its very nature, it indicates something concrete: intentions, attitudes, and behaviors that are shown in daily living. Just as he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other."
Mercy has changed me radically. Because just as Christ is merciful to me, I am called to show the same mercy to all people. If not, then all this following-Jesus-church-going stuff is bull crap. There is no excuse, no reason to say it doesn't apply to me.
When I started running 2ish years ago I didn't realize how many things running could teach me besides why exercise matters.
What I did not realize, however, was how many life lessons running would (and continues) to teach me.
Let's start off with where I need the most help shall we friends?
One of the virtues I most often suck at and constantly need more practice. Patience leads to self-awareness, discipline, and more refined character...again all things I need more of. I have learned to be patient with myself in pacing, not getting the time I want in a race, and not screaming at the person driving in front of me not using his turn signal.
Being patient with myself and others reminds me, to slow down and not get bent out of shape by life.
This is my anthem, my battle cry in life right now.
Never say never because you can do the hard stuff.
Sometimes the only thing holding you back is your mind.
This is especially true for running; how much impact the mind has on the body's ability to perform. There is a point where you hit a wall, and the only thing that gets you across the finish line is positive self-talk and willing your mind to get it done.
Negative self-talk in any form will kill you. The power of lies we often so easily tell ourselves does more damage than we realize sometimes.
The messages we tell ourselves are crazy powerful. Sometimes really the only thing holding you back is your mind. Believe it can happen and it just might.
Prepare, but go with the flow.
Prepare, work hard, do the best you can with what you have, and then go with the flow whatever happens.
If we put in our time and prepare well, we need to find comfort in the fact that we've done our best. Then let it go. #serenitynow
Suffering makes you stronger.
True in every sense, in every life situation. Insert Kelly Clarkson singing here.
The hardest, most difficult things in life have the potential to be life changing lessons. And when that happens, you are stronger and more resilient.
Kelly Clarkson really was right, what doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
Growing up I loved strong female characters in books and movies. I would play dress up as Laura Ingalls Wilder or pretend to be a great writer like Jo March. I loved seeing different ways women do bold, beautiful, and courageous things with their lives and for other people.
It left me inspired and dreaming big dreams for myself.
I find myself thinking a lot about Esther over the past few days (and yes especially since the election).
One of my favorite women from the Bible is Esther. Finding herself a young queen amid the crisis that her people were facing annihilation, her place and time in history were delicately planned by God. And the same with each of us.
For such a time as this...
For such a time as this were you and I created.
The times we live in are more like the times the early Christians lived in. By that I mean, to call yourself a follower of Jesus Christ in this world today demands a radical boldness the early Church survived on.
Our world desperately needs an Esther Generation. Our world is crying for justice, mercy, and healing. Queen Esther saved her people because she was bold and took a risk in faith. She trusted that God wanted to use her life for a purpose greater than she imagined.
What does it look like to trust that God wants to use my life like Queen Esther?
For such a time as this...to speak out against attitudes that demean the dignity and respect of women.
For such a time as this...to break down barriers of racism, hate, and class privilege.
For such a time as this...to fight against crimes where women and children are abused and trafficked.
For such a time as this...to break down denominational and ideological barriers that divide us.
For such a time as this...to show more love and less judgement.
For such a time as this...to make the world a little less cold through acts of mercy.
For such a time as this...to listen, welcome, and respect the "other".
For such a time as this...to speak honestly about the addictions that destroy lives and families.
The more I learn about myself, heal, and live on this planet the more I see how much more meaningful my life is when I give it away. And like Esther, I want to use the life I've been given to give others life. Is this what Jesus meant when He said, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his life?"
Yes I think that is exactly what He meant. A life of meaning is a life poured out in love, service, justice, and compassion. Life has purpose when it is given away.
Right now in our country, many people are scared, angry, or confused. People are trying to make sense of many senseless things in the world we live in.
What would it look like for each of us to be Esther in the lives God has given us?
What does it look like to be an Esther Generation if you're single, married, a mom, writer, speaker, teacher, librarian, dancer, bank teller?
Our country, our world is aching for more Esther's. I know I am not there yet. But I want my life to be bold and brave like Queen Esther...even if I have to spend my whole life trying.
So what would it look like for God to use your life like He did with Esther?
...Yes even amid all the crazy making that will be known as the 2016 election.
Can I tell you something?
I used to royally suck at being graceful. Like. A lot.
No I am not talking like ballroom dancing graceful.
But the kind of graceful that seeks to be genuinely kind and loving to people I may not agree with.
I used to have a much harsher, more judgmental view of the world, especially other people, and even more myself. I had a hard heart in a lot of ways. And I have had to repent and ask forgiveness for ways I had truly hurt people out of ignorance.
One of the things that has most grown and matured me over the last few years is surrounding myself with people, books, ideas, perspectives that I may not necessarily agree with.
I love wrestling with ideas, words, and trying to understand it all through a Kingdom perspective. As a result, I am much more aware of my own weaknesses and prejudices. Words like mercy, dialogue, compassion, and listening mean so much more to me now.
I am learning to have and wrestle with difficult conversations with a more tender, pastoral heart. I am much quicker to see the freaking plank in my life before pointing out everyone else's splinters. I want to really listen to you vs. just getting in my two cents first and last. I would rather accompany you than judge you.
Trust me, if there was an Olympic medal for judging I could have taken the gold.
How much different would things look like in this world if we allowed those who disagree with us help make us a more loving, kind person?
I don't mean in this a "You're okay, I'm okay" Pollyanna BS kinda way. I mean to sincerely look at this particular person and ask, "What can he/she teach me in this moment? How can I love the Christ in this person right now?"
Sure its great to love the people we like. But Jesus said what matters even more is to love those who hate us, to love those we particularly don't like or maybe ourselves do hate.
When we meet Jesus Christ for Final Judgment someday, He isn't going to ask us about our politics, theology, denomination preference, tithing history, whether you're gay or straight.
I think what will matter most is how well did we love God and love others. The loving God thing I think I'm doing a fair-ish job at. Its just all God's people, that's what trips me up.
There are so many authors and thinkers from a variety of political and spiritual traditions that have shaped me in new ways. Honestly we will probably never meet. And if we ever talked heavy religion or politics at a dinner party, it would be pretty lively I am sure.
But I am grateful for each of you, because in different ways you are helping me to become a little more like Jesus.