A Suttle Pursuit

One Step At A Time

Love Is A Choice, Not A Feeling

Hopeless romantics, enter at your own risk. I am married and a father, and I am more and more convinced that love is not something that you feel but something that you choose. That might make me cold or distant or emotionally challenged, but I believe that a sober-minded choice is far more powerful and loving than any raw feeling, emotional high, or chemical reaction.

For love to be worth anything, it cannot come and go like our other emotions. It cannot be “fallen into” or “fallen out of.” It must be bigger than our feelings and not dependent on our circumstances, so it must be chosen even when it is felt the least.

We live in a world where dating and marriage relationships are in pursuit of this overwhelming feeling of love that makes everything worthwhile and tells you that you are with the right person. We are also inundated with the idea that your children will complete you, and you will fall head over heels with them from the first moment.

In my experience, I have not found either to be the case, and I think that we are setting people up for failure and disappointment by continuing that façade.

It was never love at first sight for Traci and I. It was a choice of circumstance in high school, and then another choice much later on when the first time did not go so well. In both cases, and in all the years after, we have felt joy, happiness, attraction, passion, trust, admiration, compassion, and gratitude.

However, we have also felt anger, annoyance, sadness, worry, fear, and boredom. 1 There is not a feeling of love that overpowers the negative emotions, but there is a conscious decision of love to choose each other despite those emotions.

As we were preparing for London’s arrival, I received some amazing advice from one of our friends and teachers here at G42. He told me not to necessarily expect some magical switch to click on once she was born where I would feel this incredible connection that would change everything and bring completion to my life. 2

I am so thankful for that advice because that was my exact expectation from the stories and ideas that I had seen in the world around me, and I would have been completely lost when it did not happen.

Seeing her for the first time and holding her and watching her grow, I have been full of pride, joy, awe, thankfulness, and so many more wonderful emotions. However, again, as time has gone on those feelings have not been a constant, unconditional wave because there have also been times of exhaustion, stress, helplessness, and frustration.

In addition, there have been a lot of times in the middle where everything is fairly neutral, but the decision to choose her is ever present.

The same friend told me that, as a father, there is little that we can do to connect with a newborn. It feels much like being her servant who is on call with the understanding that she will not provide me anything in return.

Surprise, surprise, that seems to be exactly how we are called to love everyone. We are not called to love people based on a feeling or for a return, but to choose to serve their needs above our own in all and through all.

I want to reiterate that I do not believe that this is a more depressing or worse version of love than the one we get told about every day. In fact, I think it is infinitely more beautiful. If we received some magical feeling of unconditional love when we got married or had children that compelled our every action, it would be the weakest form of love imaginable and maybe not even love at all.

When we choose someone else above ourselves, regardless of how we feel or the circumstances that we find ourselves in, it is the most profound thing that we can offer.

It is the same in our relationship with God. Love is not just a feeling that He has for us. It is who He is, and He expresses it by choosing us, despite the circumstances or what we provide in return. Incredibly, when we come into relationship with Him and receive that love, we do not obtain some mystical, unconditional feeling of love for Him in return. He allows us the even more precious opportunity to  choose Him back.

An Update From The Suttles

After over a year of giving up the blog world, Dustin has pulled me back in.  I will, therefore, uphold my end of the deal, and while Dustin gives you nuggets of wisdom to chew on, I will occasionally post an update about the Suttles.

Let’s see… where to begin?  I want to hit the highlights of the last several months as best as I can. This is going to be a doozy of a blog, so grab a cup of coffee and enjoy!

April 2015 – One of our best friends, Julie Wivholm, came to visit us in Spain during Semana Santa (Holy Week). We packed in as much as we could in seven days, and had an amazing time reconnecting with her.

Julie Collage

Also in April, Dustin celebrated his 30th birthday, so we hopped over to Ireland to celebrate with some of our friends in Dublin.  What a beautiful place with incredible people.

Cliffs of Moher

May 2015 – London Grace joined the Suttle team late in the month, and life hasn’t been the same since then.  What an wonderful, humbling, stressful, perfectly imperfect experience it was to bring a human into the world.  Our incredible G42 family helped us so much those first few days with London; decorating our nursery (and our whole apartment for that matter!), writing letters, making meals, etc, and we are extremely grateful for all they did for the three of us.  But it didn’t stop there!  It has been incredible to have them as our second family, especially when ours was so far away.

Newborn Collage

Summer 2015 – Both sets of parents arrived in June to help us get our feet under us as we began our journey into parenthood.  There is something extremely comforting about having family around at such an important time in life.  We made so many memories including picnics on the beach, long evenings on the terrace, playing dress up with London and her pretty new clothes, and hours of quality time soaked up to the brim.
Parents Collage
October 2015 – Chelsea and Coltin Wester came to Mijas to meet London and to visit some of our favorite spots in Spain.  We were so thankful they took time out of their busy schedules to come and see us.

Suttle | Wester Collage

December 2015 – Stroller…check, baby…check, Texas bound…check check!  For the first time since we moved to Spain, we traveled home for Christmas and made some memories to last a lifetime!  The Trevathan clan packed 17 adults and kids into my brother’s house for 7 days to celebrate Christmas all under the same roof, no FaceTime needed:).  We also welcomed Drew and his son Logan to the family as we celebrated Tiffani and Drew’s wedding just two days later.  Such a fantastic couple of weeks with family and friends!

Trevathan Collage

Along with that personal update, we are still enjoying every minute of the work we are doing at G42.  We have made lasting friendships and seen the beginnings of some beautiful plans God has written for the interns here.   And although I had to cut down my time at the English School to be a mama, I am still with the kids everyday, and it is a joy only teachers feel to see the growth in their students.  Since our last update, we have had 50 G42 graduates, and taught 80+ students in the English school.  London Grace was the first ‘G42 baby’, but it seems we have started a trend!  Steph and Martin had baby Sophia Celeste in January, and we are all waiting on pins and needles with Daniel and Kaitlyn as baby Bear Davis gets ready to make his debut this month!

We have been so incredibly blessed by our supporters, family, and friends, as we continue our work and life in Mijas.  Your belief in what we are doing and the encouragement you send our way is something we will never take for granted, and we appreciate it beyond words.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Graduation - March 2016

Cake or Death?

In my last blog, I wrote about one of my graduation speeches, “10 Pieces of Advice to My Unborn Child.” One piece of advice needed a little realignment, and I should probably give another entry the same treatment.

#4 – If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.

As before, this is something that I heard time and again growing up, usually because of something that I decided to say to my little sister. Also, as before, I have come to appreciate this lesson more and more as I have grown up.

I have seen and been a part of the damage that negative words, complaining, slander, and gossip can do to a person, a relationship, a community, a ministry, and a church. Yet, as I continued to grow and hold fast to this concept, I do believe that it has saved me and the people around me from much worse heartache.

Now, here is the shift. That advice is only a half measure. It is a good starting point, and start there if you are not there yet, but it is not enough.

When we keep our mouths shut and make the mature decision to not say something negative, we do not hurt other people. However, we do not help them either. On top of that, that negative thought is still in your mind and still in your heart and is having an impact on you whether you say something or not. The only way to change that is to create a new thought.

If the tongue has the power of life and death1, there is something really good about not bringing death. But, there is something far more profound about introducing life, and if you are not speaking, then you are not doing it. Once you do start speaking, it might surprise you when that ‘life’ does not just affect the person that you are speaking to or about, but changes something inside of you as well.

There is something beautiful and unique in everyone that you encounter, and we desperately need to have grace for people for wherever they are on their journey. Every person on this planet has been created in the image of God. All we need to do is point to those characteristics and speak them out loud.

With that in mind, words of life are not always sunshine and rainbows. There is love and life in celebrating where someone is and where the have come from, but not in letting them stay there.

Sometimes people need to hear some ‘harsh’ truths that do not seem life bringing in the moment but prove to be in the long run. People need us to see things in them that they cannot see in themselves and to call those things forth. We can help people move from death to life and from life to abundant life.

Here is something else for you to consider. If you have that power in your tongue, and you do not use it to bring life to people and circumstances, then you are actually robbing them of it.

#4 [Revised]: If you don’t have anything nice to say, try harder, and speak life.

Which Is More Important, Actions or Words?

In keeping with our theme of using your voice and G42 graduations, here is another piece of the puzzle. I need to lay two pieces of groundwork first, so please bear with me.

First, I have the pleasure of delivering the commencement speech at the end of each term. This is my last opportunity to give advice or challenge our graduates before they leave. I try to keep it short and sweet before turning the spotlight back onto the graduates where it belongs.

On this particular occasion, Traci was just starting her second trimester, so I played the emotional card and laid it on thick. 1 My speech was “10 Pieces of Advice To My Unborn Child.”

The second piece of foundation is another concept that we talk a lot about here at G42 called ‘both/and.’ I do not know who first developed the idea, but Andrew Shearman is the one who brought it here. The theory is that there are few things in life and spirituality that are ‘either/or’ and ‘black & white.’ Soon after they arrive, the interns learn that when presented with a question about God that asks you to choose one side or the other, the answer is usually ‘yes.’

Now, back to the moral of today’s story. The piece of advice that I want to focus on was #8: Be known for what you do more than for what you say.

My parents instilled this in me from an early age, and it is a lesson that I appreciate more and more as I grow older. There are other variations on the motif such as “Actions speak louder than words” and “Let you actions do your talking for you.” I still believe that these are solid pieces of advice and principles. However, I am coming to see that this is another case where the ‘both/and’ rule applies.

I am starting to understand that the words that we say, and the words that we do not say, are just as important as our actions. They have incredible power, and we cannot ignore them. We all know this is true from our own experiences, and the Bible is clear, time and again, about the power of our words.

As I have shared with you in the last couple of posts, I believe that I have been missing out on crucial opportunities to impact the lives of people around me and the environments that I find myself in by trying to solely let my actions speak for themselves. While the actions are still beneficial, it is only half of the equation.

There is a terrifying and beautiful aspect to putting so much stock in the action side for so long. Now that I am starting to say something and drawing some lines in the sand, I just might be forced to back them up.

So, are actions more important, or are words more important? Say it with me class, “Yes!”

It has been so great to hear from everyone, and I appreciate all of the love and support. I hope that this continues to be beneficial to you in some way. If you have any thoughts on how I can change or improve what I am doing, please let me know. Also, again, if you have any topics or questions that you want me to write about, send them my way.

Till We Have Faces

“I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer… How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”

― C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

A little over a week ago, we had our latest graduation here at G42. During our last week, we always have a time of celebration with our graduates where we pray and prophesy over them, we commission them, and we send them out.

The quote above is one that I spoke over one of our graduates. I am taking the quote somewhat out of context, but the truth is still there. I told her what a joy it had been to watch her find ‘her face’ here and to see her lay down mask after mask in a journey to come face to face with her Father.

Since that day, that thought has continued to echo in my mind, and I think that it was as much a message for me as it was for her. I think that is what this experiment is for me. It is the continuation of a journey to find ‘my face.’ It is a means to explore and display a new level of honesty, vulnerability, and transparency. Over the years, I have to come to realize how powerful those things can be in our current culture.

It is much easier to be honest and vulnerable in writing or behind a computer, so that is where I am going to start. I even thought about going a different direction and doing it anonymously somewhere else, but that defeats the purpose. I do not want to be just anyone. I want to be me, so here I am. Maybe, just maybe, this will help me, or more likely force me, to do the same in the ‘real world.’

I have also learned the more that I lay down the big, clunky obvious masks, the more masks I find waiting underneath. But, I will continue to remove them one at a time until I find mine and can finally meet face to face.

I also do not believe this is just a journey to meet God as we truly are but to also find the freedom to encounter one another as our true selves. I wonder what kind of world that might be.

Here is a brilliant poem called “Masks” by Shel Silverstein:

Masks - Shel Silverstein

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