When I was a child, I used to dream about lovely things like becoming a ballerina or being able to lick off BOTH beaters when my mom was baking a cake. As an adult, however, my dreams have changed somewhat (although I still lick off both beaters when my kids aren’t looking). As a grown-up, I’ve dreamed of more grand things. Like meeting Jen Hatmaker.
For those of you who may not know her already, you are about to, and you’re welcome. She’s only the most hilarious, genuine, kind, encouraging, inspirational author and speaker of our generation. Stop what you’re doing right now and go on Amazon to buy her books and listen to a few of her podcasts. You won’t be sorry.
Jen Hatmaker lives in Austin, and I’ve seriously contemplated moving to Texas just so we can “accidentally” become fast friends. As it turns out, though, Jen actually came to me! Last weekend she was in central California as part of the tour for her most recent book, For The Love. Obviously I had to go see her. So, I packed up myself and the baby, and drove for “what should have been 3- but turned into 6-hours” through the worst Bay Area Friday Afternoon Traffic ever (remind me again why we live here?). But in the end, we made it. And it was totally worth it.
I had an amazing weekend and I met some amazing people. I even got a book signed by my new best bud, Jen. But the best part of the weekend? I left inspired. Inspired to change myself for the better, and hopefully better the world through that change.
The topic of the weekend was “Be Love(d)”. Jen spoke on how we are loved by God (“Be loved”), and how we can “Be love” for others through our life and our actions. The message totally hit home for me, and I’ve been thinking non-stop about the implications of being loved and being love.
There have been several times in the last week where I have literally shed tears over the brokenness around me. It seems like everywhere I look there is discord and fear and hate permeating our communities, our country, the whole world. Racism is rampant. Our political future is at an unnerving tipping point. Terrorism and violence have leaked into our very neighborhoods. People against people. Us against them. Each man for himself.
Yet I refuse to believe that it has to be this way. The brokenness that I feel is surely breaking God’s heart as well, and we can no longer afford to sit idly by and watch the world unravel before us. Action is required. And it begins with us. In fact, Jesus actually straight-up gives us the answer to our current predicament.
When Jesus was questioned about what was the greatest commandment, the most important rule to observe, he answered:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Love! That’s it. The tool that will fix brokenness is love. And love, my friends, is something we can all afford to give.
I am a strong believer that lives are changed one at a time. That deep, meaningful connections–surrounded by love–are what change individuals. And when one life is changed for the better, that one life will influence their family, their community, and the world. It starts with one, but the effects are exponential.
This week I put into practice this idea of “being love”, quite by accident, and I was blown away by the results. A woman had recently moved into our neighborhood, and she has a baby that is about the same age as Hannah. I’d seen her walking with her baby a few times and had exchanged smiles and waves from across the street, but I hadn’t really introduced myself or gotten to know her at all.
Anyway, on Wednesday afternoon I was baking muffins with the boys and the recipe made a lot more muffins than I was expecting. We had muffins covering every surface of our kitchen, and I was trying to figure out what to do with all of them. Then an idea struck me: maybe I should share some of these surplus muffins! (I know, sometimes it takes me awhile to come to realizations that should be quite obvious.).
So, I packed up a plate of muffins and wrote a quick note welcoming this new neighbor to the neighborhood, and we walked them over to her house. When my neighbor opened the door she was delighted and her eyes filled with tears.
“Nobody ever bakes for me!” She said, “I’m a pastry chef instructor, and I guess people don’t feel like they can bake for me! Thank you so much!”
My first thought was, “I sure hope I got out all of those egg shells from the 4-year old’s “help” in this little project”, but mostly I was just happy that she was happy.
The next day I was rushing to unload groceries from my car before I had to zip out again to pick up Jacob from preschool. I was kind of in the zone, running back and forth from the car and trying to make my deadline. As I was unloading the last bag from my trunk, however, I looked up and saw my new neighbor walking down the street. I glanced up, smiled and waved, ready to get back to the task at hand. But instead of continuing on her walk, my neighbor stopped in my driveway.
She asked if we could talk for a minute–I could tell something was bothering her, so I put down my grocery bag and listened. She went on to tell me her story, a story of brokenness and loneliness and a deep need for love. At the end of her story, she said, “I don’t know why I just told you all of that, but I just needed to tell someone. And you seemed like someone who could listen.”
And in that moment, I knew exactly why she had just told me all of that. Love. I had done one small, simple, seemingly insignificant act of love, and it literally opened the door to this woman’s home and her heart. Love changes everything, and it does not have to be complicated. It can be as simple as sharing some muffins, putting down your grocery bag, and listening.
So that is my challenge to you, friends. Be love. Whether the world is falling apart around you, or everything is going along just fine, be love. Love is like a rain drop in a pond, and it sends ripples out into the world. Be the kind of love that sends out ripples of goodness and kindness and hope together.