Choosing Love

Mark and Sydney excited

As of today, I have been dating that adorable woman above, Sydney, for 6 months.  For those who know me, especially, let that sink in for a moment… half-a-year.  OMG, I know!

The preceding 6 months have, certainly, been the best 6-month-period of my life thus far.  As I wrote about in my post on the subject of our 4th monthiversary, this has been a fantastic time of learning and growth… and that’s on top of every bit of peace, laughter, and physical closeness that has gone into this relationship-salsa.  This isn’t the dull, rote learning of a general ed. college course one is forced to take and has zero interest in, though; I LOVE learning what I’ve been learning.  One of the greatest concepts I’ve come to better understand is this:

Love is a choice.

Over the years I’ve heard that piece of advice frequently offered in conversations of what makes a good relationship, but I had no real concept as to how it looked in romantic practicality.  During these months I’ve spent with The Syds, though, I have come to finally grasp an understanding of what it is like to choose to love.  I’m not perfect (shocking, I know), and much to my surprise, neither is my girlfriend.  We are both imperfect people who are so attracted to one another and cherish each other so much that we are able to bond despite these imperfections.  For someone like myself, who so often struggled with the notion of my own imperfection or being in a relationship where one must — GASP — compromise, this has been a novel experience.  Sydney and I have shared a countless amount of hearty laughs together in these 6 months, and we have also shared some very touching nearly-tearful moments of conversation… both of which strengthen our relationship in different ways.  There are times, though, when perhaps being who I should be in this relationship isn’t naturally forthcoming.  Don’t get me wrong — Sydney is one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever known, and she makes loving and being in a relationship with her extremely easy.  No qualifiers on that.. she’s stinkin’ great!  Due to the aforementioned imperfections, though, I quickly discovered that sometimes my immediate responses to situations with her weren’t ideal.  Being a mature adult, I’m able to apologize when I falter or express my feelings when perhaps I’m on the receiving end of a less-than-ideal response of hers, and she’s done the same.  As brilliant as this relationship has been, and it’s exceptionally smooth sailing 99.7% of the time, what has excited me even more than the fun, the firsts of smoochin’ and saying “I love you,” and the fact that she’s so foxy is that through this wonderful woman’s grace and compassion I have come to understand what it means to choose to love someone.

To look at it through another lens, love is action.  The feelings of affection, empathy, compassion, attraction — these are all parts of the whole that is Love, but if these remain internal, if they are never shared with the one who inspires their existence, these feelings keep to the lesser realms of love.  Love is action, in that to express love we must… EXPRESS love.  This may be done through a kind word, a patient ear to listen, or a selfless act, but love must be expressed.  We choose to express this love — we choose how and to whom — and in a relationship, this is a consistent activity.  At least, it seems that it should be 🙂 .  I choose to show this woman in my life as much love as I can muster in any given situation, because that is what I feel she deserves.  What’s fascinating to me, and something I never understood before, is how this becomes a machine of perpetual motion.  Even if I am not feeling something — perhaps I’m super tired or slightly irritable for reasons totally unrelated to her (or even if it WERE to be related to her) — by choosing to show Sydney love, my feelings grow, which in turn causes me to want to express my love even more.

And so on and so forth it goes, feeling building atop action and action building atop feeling.

Love is never a chore, either.  Though the loving actions or reactions may not be first-instinct in a given situation, and in all sincerity at points it has been really tough to grow past my selfish inclinations, I have realized time and again how fortunate I am to be able to show my girlfriend love.  Whether it’s in a way that she sadly hasn’t received much of before or if it’s just the simple fact that I open the car door for her every time she gets in, I have discovered what a blessing it is to be the one who is able to express this love to her.  She deserves more than I can likely ever give (and she might very well say the same about me), but I delight in the fact that I am the one who is able to portray the best version of love that I can for her.  It is my absolute honor 🙂 .  And so, though she makes it extremely easy anyways, I still take responsibility for making the daily choice to love this woman… and for 6 months and counting, I have enjoyed the heck out of being able to do so!

Just as I never fully understood what it meant to choose to love a partner (I have still barely scraped the top of the iceberg, I’m sure), I have no way of conceptualizing just how much better this relationship can actually get — but I can’t wait to find out 🙂 .

—————

And to my Thundernut, my Happy Smiley, my Pikachu/Togepi/Vulpix, my Sydster… while I’m slightly disappointed that the monetary/physically existent giftage can’t flow heavily from me right now, I hope you can enjoy this post in lieu of a hand-made present this month, and accept the gift that is my whole heart (I know you will… I mean, it’s totally adorable and sweet, so obvi you’ll love it).  I can’t wait to see you and spend the entire day with you, and I hope I can express just a fraction of how you make me feel… because I choo-choo-choose us ❤ ❤ ❤ .

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Out Of The Box – 331

Out of the Box weekly stick figure web comic 331 Ever Seen The Back Of A Dot?

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The Breath In My Lungs

blonde girl breath in cold

I have thoroughly enjoyed the amount of rain we’ve seen here in southern California this year… but unfortunately, so have the plants that are now blooming their little hearts out.  The personal downside to a very wet winter is that the local flora soaks it all up and grows like gangbusters come springtime.  The winds picked up pretty heavily this week, and the hills are alive with the sound of pollen flying everywhere… and on top of that, yesterday I pulled an extra shift just to help out with a building-move at work, and there was plenty of dust flying as I swept out an old warehouse area.

So, bad time to be my respiratory system.

This afternoon as I left church, I started feeling the tightness in my chest that is part of the shortness of breath and overall discomfort that can spring up during these bad allergy times.  As Sydney and I headed to lunch, my frame hunched over to relax my muscles as much as possible and my lips occasionally gasping for a satisfactory gulp of air, I was entirely amused and humbled by the song that came to mind.  One of my favorite modern Christian songs is “Great Are You Lord,” and what fluttered through my thoughts today as I struggled to properly inhale and exhale was a refrain from the chorus:

It’s Your breath in our lungs,
So we pour out our praise, we pour out our praise.

I couldn’t muster more than a chuckle, as I try to maintain a minimal amount of dialogue and laughter when it’s this tough to breathe, but I smiled hard (inside and out) and praised God in the midst of the struggle.  My breathing difficulties are really minor in light of the troubles that some face, but what little air I DID manage to pump through my body is a sign of life, and on top of that gift I have so much other fortune (salvation, the wonderful woman I know as my girlfriend, safe food and water, etc.) that I can do nothing but be thankful.

And so I am… for the breath in my lungs, even when it may not seem like enough 🙂 .

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Out Of The Box – 330

Out of the Box stick man web comic 330 Net Netrali-boring

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Out Of The Box – 329

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Out Of The Box – 328

Out of the Box weekly stick man webcomic 328 Not a Smudge of Sense

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I Was Baptized Today

cute baby baptism

Well, might not’ve expected THAT title, eh?  I grew up in a Christian home and profess my faith here on the regular… isn’t baptism something that should’ve happened a long time ago?  Isn’t that was Christians have to do?

While commonly portrayed as a Catholic endeavor (ala the famous baptism scene in The Godfather), there are many others who believe baptism is part of salvation.  There are number of variances in what exactly this means, but to many it is seen as a requirement for saving one’s soul.  I was raised in a family who does not believe this way.  The churches I’ve attended since youth are on the other side of this argument, in which baptism is valuable and an important public expression, but that’s where it ends; it is not necessary for salvation.

I will leave the theological conversation to others, as a basic online search will lead you to many, many articles on the subject — some for, some against.  While I differ with my folks on certain points of belief, in this regard we are of like mind… and this is how I came to be a 34-year-old Christian man who had never been baptized.

Until today.

Before I started dating Sydney, I attended her church with her.  Since then, it has been an unbelievable blessing.  Unlike churches I’d attended in the past, our current church has a baptismal and the pastor offers the option for anyone to come and be baptized at the end of every service.  I have begun volunteering with the children in Sunday school, we attend the young adults mid-week meeting, and I make an earnest effort to be in church every week.  I have grown a lot as a person while in this relationship with Sydney, and I have done an even more valuable level of growing as a Christian since attending this church.  For a couple of months, now, I had been considering taking our pastor up on his congregational invitation each week, but it never came about for various reasons: after-church plans, illness, etc..  Earlier this week, though, Sydney mentioned that today was the 4-year anniversary of the day that SHE was baptized (same church, but by the youth group leader in the ocean).  I took the hint and decided that this was my time.

I’ve been a Christian since I was young.  I firmly believe that the only requirement of salvation is faith — we are all imperfect sinners, saved by nothing but the grace of God.  No ceremonial act of mine is necessary, and thus I have gone throughout my life as an unbaptized Christian.  This always sat heavy on my heart, though, because what I DO believe baptism to be is a public profession of the faith I carry internally.  By the time I was of an age to properly make this decision on my own, I was no longer in a church I could call home.  I had nobody to profess my faith TO.  As I have grown closer to the members of this church, though, I have now found a family to whom I thought it very meaningful to have this moment with.

As to the actual ceremony, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.  I have witnessed many baptisms at this church, and so I was familiar with the white robes and how the ceremony plays out, but there were some simple logistics I wasn’t sure of.  Namely, was I going to wear my clothes under that robe?  I slyly sneaked an extra pair of pants and socks into my car’s trunk this morning, as Sydney had stayed the night in our guest room and I was going to surprise her with my plan for the afternoon.  At the close of today’s service, I kissed her on the cheek and said, “I’ll be back.”  As I headed to the front of the sanctuary, she later told me that she assumed I was simply grabbing a tissue from the front row.  Then I shook hands with one of the elders who was standing up front with our pastor, and she knew something was up.  I was nervous… a little shaky, not because I was afraid or because I felt unsure, but because I was excited.  After so many years, I was in a place to finally perform this act and it was very special to me.  To have this pastor perform it, when God has spoken to me a great deal through him.  To have it be at this church, when I’d spent so many years winding and turning in my Christian life to finally land here.  To have it be on the same day, 4 years later, as the woman I love, who not only brought me to this church but has made my life exponentially better each day that she’s in it.

And then that was it.  Pastor Mike is a fairly dry guy, nice and inviting but also pretty calm.  It was no secret how over-joyed he was to be able to perform this ceremony yet again as we spoke in the hall before walking out to the tub of water.  He’s done this over 1,000 times at this church, now, and yet I get the sense that he is just as excited every time.  I had no sense of where Sydney was when we went out there, but my very smart gal had made her way over to the side to get a clean shot to record it for me.  I am very glad she did, because I can now share that here, as well!

Baptism, again, is not something I consider a requirement of the Christian faith, but I am filled with joy to have finally done this — in front of my new church family, the woman I love, and most importantly, God.  I’m not sure if it comes through in the video, but I was smiling as I stood there… a simple moment with my Father, enjoying that He had led me to a place  (physically and emotionally) where I was finally able to profess my faith in this way…

P.S. – For those wondering, they provide freshly washed underwear to wear under the robe.  And now we know 🙂 .

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