The same power that moves the universe exists within our lives. Each individual has immense potential, and a great change in the inner dimension of one individual’s life has the power to touch others’ lives and transform society.


—Daisaku Ikeda, “On Hardship & Hope

Dear Reader,

I wish I knew your name as you read so that I could personalize this message. Looking through my Facebook posts and Twitter, I realized that it’s easy for me to love. Of course, I’ve always known this and there have been too many times it’s been my downfall.

Yet, in a world where it seems people are more and more ostracized instead of embraced; shot instead of heard; somehow, I want you to know I care more specifically about you as a person. Without hearing from you directly though, it’s not possible. And because I have a large family, worked in r attended large churches, it’s hard to keep up with the people I have met in person.

That doesn’t mean I love you any less. There are so many ways that love comes to us. It took me years to understand that love is more than a warm, cozy feeling. No, I cannot say that I unconditionally love everyone because I am human. Life has shown me time and again that I always have more to learn about love.

However, God had different plans for my life. That is not to say that God caused the end of my marriage because I don’t believe that one bit. The frailty of humanity caused the end of my marriage. What saves me is love.

Yet, the amount of love I have, however small, has made a tremendous difference in my life and in the lives of those around me. When 2018 started, it was with the knowledge that my wife of 12 years was most likely going to ask for a divorce. On the other side of 2018, had you asked me about my life I would have spoken of my devastation. Since I thought I had found THE ONE, it seemed that the rest of my life would be lived out in lonely misery.

The love shared with my wife through those years gave me a good grounding in love. Not only love of her family but also a different understanding of the love of self. My friends, family, and church were there for me so that I knew I wasn’t alone. Of course, the sweet dog was my constant and healing companion even as she grieved with me.

Because I could see the love in my past and the love that surrounds me in the present, I often find myself continuing to say, “I love my life.” That phrase was a constant phrase when I lived in Sylva (the first town where I felt I really belonged). There is a belonging here too, even though it’s different. Some part of me always felt I belonged in the mountains even though I grew up in the flatlands. Belonging is a part of love too.

As we start this new year, my heart is full of hope in you and in my own life. I’m not one to make resolutions on New Year’s Day. Each day is really a new beginning anyway. Each day I am alive, I pray for the strength to be kind. How can I care for the earth and love my neighbor? How can I disagree with a person but still treat the other with respect? There are still questions of course.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke

It seems I’m learning to “love the questions” of my life. When I was younger, I loved asking questions because I wanted answers. At the very least, I wanted clues to the answers to life’s lessons. Rilke, the poet, was right that each answer only leads to another question though. If we don’t learn to love the questions of our lives, then we can be questioned to the point of madness.

When we can understand that no ONE person has all the answers, it empowers us to look at each other differently. No ONE human being can be all right and though we might think it, no one can be ALL wrong. I don’t think that a person who made only wrong choices would have survived to adulthood. I can be and often am wrong. Still, think about it.

Let’s think about how we can better live together in 2019. For me, that means how can we work for the well-being of others AS WELL AS work for our own well-being. It’s a both/and way of looking at life and it can be quite tricky to navigate. To live in such a manner requires that we LISTEN in love as well as talk of love.

My new year has started out with love, laughter, and friendship. I pray that yours has started with such gifts. Loss happens to a lot of us at this time of year. It can be a hard time of year. Still, hold on to the love.

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Published by JRobin Whitley

Robin is an artist living in Western NC writing from the mountains. She lives with her little black dog, Birdie. Life is amazing! Robin received her undergraduate degree in music from Pfeiffer Univeristy and her Masters of Divinity from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. She plays guitar, mandolin, and piano.

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