Anguish, Despair and Comfort in the Incarnation . . .

I wrote this last year during a difficult time in my life and thought it was worth sharing again  . . .  

There are times when I feel that life is too difficult to bear.  When death and darkness and pain and suffering and listlessness force themselves upon my soul.  I cry out to the Lord in utter desperation:  “Father, please!  Why is this happening?  Please save me, please have mercy . . . I can hardly bear it anymore.”  I wait for a response but I hear nothing.  Am I alone?  Days and nights blur together as each week presents another challenge, another tragedy, another heartbreak . . . “O God!”, I cry, “I’m so afraid!”  I turn to the Psalmist for comfort only to find despair:

“O Lord God of my salvation, I cry day and night before You.  Let my prayer come before You; incline Your ear to my supplication, O Lord.  For my soul is filled with sorrows, and my soul draws near to Hades; I am counted among those who go down  into the pit; I am like a helpless man, free among the dead, like slain men thrown down and sleeping in a grave, whom You remember no more . . . Why, O Lord, do You reject my soul, and turn away Your face from me?”

It feels as if my heart is in constant anguish.  I weep bitterly as the people I love suffer.  I look on as my beloved wrestles with deep wounds from her past and unending physical maladies.  I feel helpless.  I feel lost and out of control.  I feel unable to provide.  Why must life be this way?  Why are there so many sorrows?  Why is there so much pain? O God do you hear me?  Do You understand me?  . . .

I stare at the icon of the Theotokos holding her child.  There is sadness in her eyes as she clings tightly to the boy of promise – the One born of the Holy Spirit.  I remember that the first Christian, my spiritual mother, the one who gave birth to God in the flesh, struggled and suffered.  My eyes fixate on the little boy in her arms, so small and fragile . . . I remember that his mother could find no place to sleep, no rest, and no safety on the night of his birth.  I remember how she was forced to have her baby in a stable surrounded by animals, hay, and the fresh cent of manure.  I recall her fleeing to Egypt to rescue her son from the hands of a mass murderer.  I remember how He experienced the limitations, temptations, and futility of human existence growing up in a small town in the desert.  Everything flashes forward.  I remember Jesus languishing in the garden . . . the blood dripping, the agony, and the resolve.  I remember the guards lashing out at Him; tearing open his flesh.  I remember the crown of thorns and the intense mockery.  I remember how He carried the cross and was nailed upon it; how He died.  I envision Mary weeping at His feet . . .

Then in the midst of the storm I hear the still soft voice, “I love you Josh . . .”

* Originally published on Truth is a Man.

Advertisements

The Beautiful Place: How to Make Your Own Icons

iconsIf you are Orthodox and poor, or perhaps not even Orthodox, but someone appreciative of icons, then this video post is for you. If you aren’t familiar with icons I recommend reading my short blog on why Orthodox Christians use them. Nonetheless, the Orthodox family has what we call “The Beautiful Place” in their home. This can be a corner or a wall facing east towards Jerusalem, but it is to be the main focus point of the home once someone enters it. I have come to see the Beautiful Place as the family’s own altar. Of course it is not the same type of altar as in the sanctuary at a parish that the priest uses, but the Orthodox family is the domestic Church. Thus the Beautiful Place is in many ways the husband’s/father’s altar where he is to guide his family spiritual and to present their prayers before God.

Over at the Orthodox Christian Information Center, they have some great advice on icon corners:

The first thing that should be done when an Orthodox Christian family moves into a new apartment or house is to determine which eastern wall or corner can be turned into the icon corner. This should not be a non-conspicuous place where the icons will be hidden from people’s eyes, rather it should be a very prominent spot which all can see. The icon corner should have icons of Christ and the Theotokos as well as icons of the saints for whom the family has particular devotion. Many times an Orthodox family chooses a particular saint to whom they wish to dedicate their family church, and place it under his or her protection. The icons in the icon corner of a family church dedicated to a saint will, of course, have an icon of the saint together with those of Christ and the Theotokos.

The icon corner will either have a small table or a shelf upon which may be placed prayer books, a hand censer, a bottle of holy water, a blessing-cross, the candles that the husband and wife held at their wedding, holy oil, palm branches and sometimes other religious objects. In front of the icons an oil lamp should perpetually burn. Some families burn wax votive candles before the icons; however, the tradition is to burn olive oil. Electric lights are not appropriate for use as the light to burn before icons. The traditional oil lamps require an amount of attention which electricity does not, thereby directing our physical services and thoughts to God several times a day when we are required to trim the wick and refill the lamp with oil.”

I hope that this video will guide you on how to make your own icons in a very affordable way. I know that icons are very expensive and cost a lot of money, but there are ways to make icons for private use (NOTE: these are not for sale or re-sale; icons are often made by artists and that is how they make money. I don’t encourage selling them)! This is an easy, affordable way to make a home altar for your family to worship and prayer together.

The link to the video can be found here. Facebook states that anyone with or without Facebook should be able to view the video. Please comment and let me know if you have trouble with it.

Blessings.

Therapeutic Leadership (An Introduction to Dr. Edwin Friedman)

Image

 “Leadership itself is a therapeutic modality.” -Dr. Edwin Friedman 

I have recently began, or attempted to nonetheless, reading Dr. Edwin Friedman’s “Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue” (a great little introductory review can be read here). The quote above can be found in the introduction to this book. I have pondered upon this quote a lot in the last couple of weeks. What is therapeutic leadership? How can therapy be done in leadership positions? I want to explore a little of Dr. Friedman’s thinking from the “Introduction” of the book to give a little insight to this notion of leadership being a therapeutic modality. Before I begin, if one is not familiar with family systems theory a basic definition would be that instead of focusing upon the individual in counseling or what have you one would focus upon the entire family dynamic. In FST, our conflicts and anxieties do not necessarily lie in our genetic make up or psychological leanings, but in how we function and react within the systems or networks of our relationships. I have written about FST here.

Introduction

Dr. Friedman begins the introduction by these two observations about church life and church relationships among clergy and laity alike:

1) The family is the truly the ecumenical experience of all humanity.

2) Practices and beliefs is not what unites spiritual leaders, but stress factors do.

Dr. Friedman writes,

It is the thesis of this book that all clergyman and clergywomen, irrespective of faith, are simultaneously involved in three distinct families whose emotional forces interlock: the families within the congregation, our congregations, and our own. Because the emotional process in all of these systems is identical, unresolved issues in any one of them can produce symptoms in the others, and increased understanding of any one creates more functioning in all three” (page 1).

Within family systems theory, we can integrate the professional life with the personal life and which “turns crisis into opportunity and moves in the direction of lessening our stress.” Bad functioning within the system is a result of the reaction we have to the anxiety and stress. Stress here is not defined by some notion of being overworked, but more by the effect of what position we play within the triangles of our families, our places therein. Dr. Friedman expresses that we can handle more stress when we are doing it for ourselves verses taking it on because of or for a relationship.

It goes without saying that to become effective leaders we must become aware of how we function within every one of these families and how we define ourselves. Dr. Friedman, as well as myself, believe that we can employ the family system model, which can aid in bringing about “understanding of family life that can aid us in our pastoral role…[and has] ramifications for the way we function in our congregations, for our position in our own personal families, nuclear and extended, and for the entire range of our emotional being” (page 1-2).

This approach goes beyond basics of pastoral counseling Dr. Friedman expresses. He writes that some may take from it and add to their toolbox, but that his book is meant to go beyond that. He writes,

The concepts of family process bring together in one perspective counseling, administration, officiating, preaching, personal growth, and leadership. Such a perspective has the effect of reintegration rather than disintegration, and, just as important, the family model offers something beyond an approach to problem solving. It presents an organic way of thinking that unifies our families and ourselves with the forces of Creation” (page 2).

Knowledge Versus Definition of Self

I think it becomes a little more clear what Dr. Friedman says about therapeutic leadership once we begin to see the integrated approach and systemic understanding of the family systems theory. We begin to see that our functioning within the system, the way we conduct and lead from within the system as a living part of it, influences and reaches others. It is the belief of those adhering to this theory that if one clearly defines one’s self (their values, beliefs, practices, and boundaries) and remains calm in response to the system’s anxiety that those within the system eventually begin to do the same thing. It follows that good leadership is therapeutic in the sense that as leaders we do just that and see the effects it has, but it also means we observe and have a keen awareness of the system and all its members.

The Power of Leadership within the Family System

Dr. Friedman notes,

Leadership has inherent power because effecting a change in relationship systems is facilitated more fundamentally by how leaders function within their families than by the quantity of their expertise. What is vital to changing any kind of ‘family’ is not knowledge of technique or even of pathology but, rather, the capacity of the family leader to define his or her own goals and values, while trying to maintain a non-anxious presence within the system…

The notion that self-definition is a more important agent of change than expertise unifies our healing power with that which promotes our own healthy (literally, our wholeness). There is an intrinsic relationship between our capacity to put families together and our ability to put ourselves together. This is why in some respects this book is aimed less at healing than at the healer. It is not easy, however to preserve this perspective on leadership because both congregational and personal families tend to reverse the priorities of expertise and self-definition, particularly when they become anxious. This is equally true of their demands in our general ministries and in our counseling efforts” (page 2-3).

We see Dr. Friedman really hammering home the point that one does not necessarily need expertise to become good leaders, but to have a strongly, clearly defined self (which for an Orthodox Christian I believe means working more and more towards theosis, but that is for another day). Dr. Friedman believes that “society’s emphasis on expertise rather than on self-definition has forced us to think about our existence in terms of specialities and subspecialities of teaching, preaching, counseling, administrating, fund-raising, organizing, socializing, and politicizing, and trying to do each equally well.” He goes onto to say how this dissipates our power into scattered, discontinous directions and what he calls quilt patterns that get so interwoven that if we get stretched the least bit in one direction the entire fabric of our lives can be and is tugged in another.

Dr. Friedman notes that the real sickness in all this is how society expects us to cope with our specialities by becoming experts in them despite the fact that one speciality can barely cover one small corner of their field. He says, “If we must conceive of leadership in terms of expertise rather than self-definition, none of us will ever feel adequately prepared.” He goes on,

The disintegration of self that threatens all clergy today is due less to the structure of our lives than to the way we are expected to organize our thinking. And yet, because family theory locates the power of change in those who assume the position of family leaders, it offers a way of thinking about all our various roles that is at once less enervating and more integrative. Because this view of leadership focuses more on self-definition of the leader as the unifying matrix of his or her existence, it veers away from thinking in terms of roles” (page 3-4).

Expert Counselors? 

Does a pastor have to be an expert counselor to be a great leader and healer? Dr. Friedman would have us believe that he would not. He even states that the demand for expertise thus the demand for more information is quite silly because if it were a reality that counselors had to have all the information in the world then no true healing could ever take place. He writes, “…complexity should not be confused with profundity. The fact that a whole can be broken down into its component parts does not necessarily guarantee better understanding.”

We begin to see two thoughts emerging here:

1) Being whole means being integrated as a person, being complete, being defined.

2) Being an effective leader means achieving number one as much as possible in all facets of life and within the system.

Dr. Friedman believes that this insistence on pathology and expertise over self-definition inhibits the power of pastoral counseling/leadership in two ways: the nature of healing and in the nature of our profession. He writes,

First, with regard to the nature of healing, it is not clear at all that knowledge of pathology is even necessary to promote healing. In the real world of family life there may be no such thing as ‘abuse,’ ‘single parenting,’ ‘hyperactivity,’ or maybe even ‘cancer.’ In reality, one is always dealing with the diagnosed condition plus the family’s own response to that condition. Thinking about families in terms of diagnostic categories leads both the family and its counselor to view the  pathological conditions as so many slices of life, even as the laboratory pathologist observes different slices of tissues. Cells that function one way in the laboratory, however, can function differently within the living organism…

Ultimately, healing and survival depend upon existential categories: on vision, for example, on hope, on the imaginative capacity, on the ability to transcend the anxiety of those about us, and on a response to challenge that treats crisis as opportunity for growth (all attributes of, or best promoted by, leadership).

Second, with regard to the nature of pastoral counseling, the family model strongly suggests that no other member of society is in a better position to foster these existential encouragements to healing than the clergy because of the unique entree into family systems our community position has given us. Ministers, rabbis, priests, and nuns have an entree into the multigenerational processes of families that is just not available to any other members of the helping professions no matter what their training or skill. This entree gives us unusual therapeutic potential” (page 5).

We can see Dr. Friedman painting an incredibly strong picture of what therapeutic power can come from leadership within the understanding of the family model. One does not have to be trained as a counselor so much as one has to be a well-defined person with a well-defined self within these family systems. Understanding this place within the system and how we can encourage growth and healing is vastly important to becoming good shepherds.

Clergy’s Therapeutic Potential

Dr. Friedman says there many reasons for the clergy’s therapeutic position, all of which are rooted in the family process and its nature:

1) Multigenerational forces behind our respective traditions meaning the generational anxiety, under/over functioning within the family system, and wholeness or lack thereof.

2) Clergy involvement in families during rites of passage, which are opportunities to enter the family system and changing it. He writes, “Life-cycle events are ‘hinges of time’ on which doors can open or close for generations.”

3) The prolonged intimate time we spend with these families, which can span for generations, and the noncounseling experiences we share with them. Dr. Friedman writes,

On the one hand, this type of entree enables us to observe families endure major crises and change without resorting to professional expertise. On the other, the same unusual entree enables us to become acquainted with families that are not overly disturbed by the very factors usually blamed for the troubles other families are experiencing–differences in background, possessive mothers, or alcoholic fathers. We are therefore in a unique position to appreciate, and therefore promote, the healing power of natural family resources and to realize that like bacteria, viruses, and carcinogens, emotional pathogens cannot undo a family alone” (page 6).

4) We position as leaders grants us this unique entree and opportunity to bring about growth and change.

We can see that there is indeed such a thing as therapeutic leadership that is based within the family systems approach. It is integrative and systemic; it is externally and internally focused. It takes into account the big picture. Within this model, one must observe the congregation, the congregation’s families, and his own family. All of these are tied together and how one functions in their positions within these networks influences all the others and can promote unhealthy traits or healthy traits; it can promote wholeness or disintegration. I firmly believe being a good pastor requires understanding one’s position in all of these and understanding one’s self.

This has been a very in-depth introduction, but I encourage everyone to pick up this book and read it if you are in ministry. Read it even if you are not. I encourage you to do so. Our leadership can indeed be therapeutic if we first work on our own salvation and wholeness. I believe Christ wants to heal us, and I believe part of salvation is integrating the human person back together as well as the relationships we have with one another. I believe Christ shows us what it means to be human again, and I believe that there is much existential truth to Dr. Friedman’s thoughts here that can aid us in our returning to being human. Give them a read sometime.

Members of the other helping professions may be able to teach us the tools of their trade, but with rare exceptions they cannot comprehend our position–either its healing potential or the problems of the emotional interlock of our various families (not to mention its insight crossovers); and they rarely have the kind of personal experience that would enable them to appreciate how leadership itself can be a therapeutic modality.” -Dr. Edwin Friedman

The Rock of Orthodoxy or (What Orthodoxy Is Teaching Me and Changing in Me [MiniBlog #1])

Russian-Orthodox-N_2010306c (1)When asked, “What has changed in your life since you became an Orthodox Christian?” I responded with:

I’m beginning to make sense of all the senselessness that has occurred in my life and why I am the way I am. Orthodoxy addressees a lot of my depravity and illness, but it isn’t only a mirror of reflection or a means of probing one’s heart, it is the path of healing, the way to Life.

Orthodoxy is beginning to help me translate the hell of my own life as I begin to wrestle even more with my Sarx (flesh), the Old Man. Orthodoxy is helping me come to terms with the abuse I have suffered, but shows me the way to forgiveness. It does not do away with those things, but in Orthodoxy they are fulfilled. By that I mean that they were for my sanctification and livelihood not just some random event of the cosmos. It encompasses all these things and for me is beginning to help me make sense of them and come to terms better. Christ takes all of it into Himself on the Cross in a very real way.

It has showed me how dead I still am, or can be, but that Christ reaches down into Hades, my own personal Hades even, and grants me the blessed hand that defeats death, pain, sin, abuse, and all that is wrong with the world and pulls me up out of the Pit thus defeating it entirely. He sits me upon the rock, which for me is His Church, Orthodoxy, and shows me the way to truly live again. It has shown me that being right is not as important as being righteous. It has shown me that being humble is more important than being heard.

It is in this coming alive that there is tension and there is struggle, but in the end it is worth more than anything you can own to be truly human again and to live and relate. This is what Orthodoxy is showing me. This is the journey She’s began with me as She brings me to participation in the Holy Mysteries of our Lord, which are tangible means of grace that bring about this transformation and participation in the Kingdom of God. The Mysteries are indeed for the healing of my soul and body.

Orthodox is what is real. It communions with Reality, the Numinous, the Mystery, the One. He is what is Real. To be in communion with Him, to have relationship with Him, is to move closer to that which is real, to exist. In Orthodoxy, I have found my existence. 

Above all, it has taught me, or is at least beginning to teach me, how to be Eucharistic in all of life and to offer unto God what He has gifted us. These are the ruminations that Orthodoxy has taught me so far.

The Father’s Embrace (A Guest Post)

ImageThis was a status my friend Robert Rubinow posted on facebook tonight that I wanted to offer up as a guest blog:

THE FATHER’S EMBRACE 

What I am about to say is not very popular, and will likely make a few people angry. But I think this needs to be confronted. As a therapist, I work with a number of children and teenagers contending with severe anxiety. This makes me very sad, as I realize that American culture and the state of the family in general tends to exert unhealthy pressure and stress on kids in ways that cause significant physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional suffering.

From the time kids are very young, they are expected to learn volumes of random information and facts which are disconnected from their historical and philosophical contexts; to be superstars on the soccer fields and basketball courts; to gain mastery over every technological gadget under the sun; to always get A’s in school so they can attend and graduate from the best colleges and universities; to seek out careers that will impress others and make them wealthy; to earn degrees and titles and trophies; to live in the best neighborhoods and to drive the finest cars.

Yet very little attention is devoted to teaching kids to be emotionally healthy; to receive more of God’s love and mercy; to value failure and mistakes as an integral part of life’s journey; to place compassion for others ahead of selfish ambition; to seek out professions that attend to the suffering of humanity; to rest and refresh their minds, bodies, and spirits at regular intervals; to listen to and cherish the wisdom and stories of their elders; to develop virtue in places of pain; to grow toward relational maturity; to gain wisdom over knowledge; to value authenticity over performance and image; to slow down, turn off the video games, and spend time in simplicity and moments of sacred silence; to listen for the voices of heaven and the angels; and to soak in the beauty and joy of life itself and God’s creation, not in possessions.

Yet until we as a people recognize which gods of the age which have stolen our hearts and souls, and unto which we offer in sacrifice our very own children, I fear we may lose the next five generations. We have much to change in our priorities, our perspectives, and our passions if we ever expect our kids to be healed.

So, all this to say, let each of us pray for our children fervently (knowing their mortal enemy will devour them if we don’t), give them more time and affection, hold them closer, bless them daily by name, accept who they are, and be lavish with our praise and approval of them. Let us love them in a way that releases them to soar spiritually on wings of eagles, high above the impoverished landscape of a culture decadent in self-absorption, entertainment, performance addiction, and faddish lifestyles. Let us lead kids away from their anxieties and fears and into the Father’s embrace…because His perfect love casts out fear.

Love Does Not Alter the Beloved, It Alters Itself II (A Challenge for Men)

media_47454_enThis is a condensed, or reworked, version of my blog from yesterday, and is written towards men to challenge them to be better husbands for the guys over at Blog of Manly.

“Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself.” -Soren Kierkegaard

On my right forearm, the lyrics to William Fitzsimmons’ song “Maybe Be Alright” are tattooed.  It says, “Love can last if you only let it grow…” I have tried to live my marriage in such a way that I do not hinder love, but let it grow, let it flourish.

I believe that way too often we do things that hinder love and hinder growth. I believe that Soren Kierkegaard is right on the money with his quote. I believe the number one thing we do that smothers love and growth in marriage is to try to alter the Beloved.

We do not stop to think about changing ourselves, but attempt to make the other person change in order to conform to our version of who they should be!

My wife and I were quick to rush into marriage and love.  We brought a lot of unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors into our marriage that caused us to spend the first year of our marriage in a 5 month therapy separation and several months of counseling.

I realized soon into my marriage that there had to be a death….the death of myself and my selfishness, my control issues. Steven Robinson wrote in his piece on Valentine’s Day, “Someone recently said of marriage that it is the only martyrdom in which you get to pick the instrument of your death. Of course it is not so much a physical death, though your physicality is a part of your sacrifice, but it is also the laying down of your ego, your self will, your time, your passions, your selfish desires… all the things that are ultimately harder to give up for the long haul than your physical life in a split second.”

Very early on in our marriage I was not letting love grow; I was smothering it. Very early on I tried to control my wife and to alter her, my Beloved.

By the grace of God, we made it through that hellish first year in tact and much stronger for it. Looking back in retrospect, I am grateful for having gone through it all.

As men, we should value honor, strength, integrity, and responsibility.  I want to challenge all the husbands out there reading to pause and do some self-evaluation. Perhaps this means going to therapy to work through your personal issues; having that extra set of eyes and ears is not something of which we should be ashamed.

Men, stop and inspect your actions and your fostering of love within your marriages. Are you smothering it or allowing it to grow? Are you attempting to alter your Beloved and conform her to your ideal version of her or are you respecting her personhood and beautiful identity in Christ?

My challenge to you as a fellow man and fellow husband is to alter your self. Humble yourself and work on you. Become the man God intended you to be. Die to your self, your ego, your pride, your need to be right, and need to control. Humble yourself before God and your wife.

Alter not your wives, but yourselves, and I can promise you that your marriage will be a much more healthier marriage. You alone control how you respond, react, live, and love within your marriage. The ball is in your court.

Love Does Not Alter the Beloved, It Alters Itself (A Love Letter, or Perhaps More Accurately, A Love Blog)

“Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself.” -Soren Kierkegaard

On my right forearm, the lyrics to William Fitzsimmons’ song “Maybe Be Alright” are tattooed.  It says, “Love can last if you only let it grow…” I have tried to live my marriage in such a way that I do not hinder love, but let it grow, let it flourish.

I believe that way too often we do things that hinder love and hinder growth. I believe that Soren Kierkegaard is right on the money with his quote. I believe the number one thing we do that smothers love and growth in marriage is to try to alter the Beloved.

We do not stop to think about changing ourselves, but attempt to make the other person change in order to conform to our version of who they should be!

My wife and I were quick to rush into marriage and love.  We brought a lot of unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors into our marriage that caused us to spend the first year of our marriage in a 5 month therapy separation and several months of counseling.

My wife is a very beautiful soul! She’s an old soul; she likes ancient things. That would probably explain our love of Orthodoxy and conversion to it. She has a deep sense of reverence towards God, towards people.

I realized soon into my marriage that there had to be a death….the death of myself and my selfishness, my control issues.

Very early on in our marriage I was not letting love grow; I was smothering it. Very early on I tried to control my wife and to alter her, my Beloved.

By the grace of God, we made it through that hellish first year in tact and much stronger for it. Looking back in retrospect, I am grateful for having gone through it all.

My Beloved has taught me humility, grace, and mercy every day since I met her. I knew when I met her that I would be in for a journey of trials to learn how to be as gentle as she is.

She is truly the strongest person I know because it is only the strong who can afford to be gentle.

She is like a dove soaring through the sky. She is like a daisy in the soft green meadow.

She has graced my brokenness with the gentleness of Christ’s love. She has applied the balm of His grace and mercy to my wounds.

My Beloved is my treasure. She has shown me the light of Resurrection in my darkness. In my marriage, she has brought me to humility by her grace, her mercy.

My Beloved is my precious fountain, a fountain from which I alone have drank. Her waters wash over me and refresh me.

I am not a very smart guy; I mess up daily in my marriage, but my Beloved’s grace and mercy is there to forgive me. She does not let me get away with things, but will hold me accountable. She knows my wounds and my flaws like no other, but yet, I can remain fully naked, exposed, before her love…and I fear not.

I know that her love shines brightly into the dark recesses of my heart. She causes me to stop and see myself how she sees me, sometimes it is bad and sometimes good.

She causes me to be introspective and how to alter myself.

Today is Valentine’s Day. A day when a Saint was martyred for his faith, but yet ironically marriage is about a martyr. Marriage is the martyrdom of your ego, false self, and horribleness. Steven Robinson wrote in his piece on Valentine’s Day, “Someone recently said of marriage that it is the only martyrdom in which you get to pick the instrument of your death. Of course it is not so much a physical death, though your physicality is a part of your sacrifice, but it is also the laying down of your ego, your self will, your time, your passions, your selfish desires… all the things that are ultimately harder to give up for the long haul than your physical life in a split second.”

My Beloved has shown to me the beauty of new birth, of self-denial, and of true love.

I have learned from my Beloved not to seek to change her, but to seek to alter myself or better yet to let Christ alter me. Her grace and mercy and beauty humble me everyday. I am often not good to remind her of her beauty and goodness, but I never forget it. Today I celebrate my Beloved and her influence on my life. I ask for the prayers St. Adrian and St. Natalie, who are the saints of our home and marriage.

I want to say to my Beloved: I love you and I am eternally grateful for the impact you have had on my life. I recall praying for my wife way before I met her. I remember driving home to VA for breaks during my freshman and sophomore years and wondering what she was doing. I remember sitting in my car on those trips looking over at the empty seat and hoping that I would have someone beside me one day.

I knew that the person who would be beside me would be of great love and mercy, but I had no idea she would be so delightfully beautify and loving. I am excited for what the future will hold for us as God brings us into new stages of life. I am excited to see her become the mother of my kids. I will join them in praise of her and her beauty.

I am glad it is with my Beloved that I can look at myself and humble myself to learn and grow.

As Solomon said, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”

I love you, Courtney Anderson, my yellowbird, my Beloved.

me and court