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Dear Joshua,

We almost missed you, you know. For a while, dad and I thought maybe two kids were enough. We even started selling some of the baby gear. But then this feeling started growing in my heart. That someone was missing. Not everyone was here, yet. The decision was never about having a third child. It was about having you. The moment I held you in my arms, I knew our family was complete.

Just think of all we would have missed, if we had missed you, my love…..

Curiosity

All of life is one great explore for you. When we travel, it takes you only a few minutes to scope out the hotel room and find out where all the drawers are and what is in them. When we hike, you run on ahead. Or shinny up rocks and trees so you can take in the view. You take things apart. You experiment. You play. And our world is bigger because of you.

Celebration

I sometimes wish you could have had one of those mommies who make every occasion grand. That would be so fun for you. Instead, you are the one who transforms our porch for Halloween. You are the one who insists we put out all the nativity sets, and Santas, and angels…. You are the one who wraps our staircase in lights and garland. I thought I was crazy about Christmas til I met you. You have me beat. 🙂 Thank you for making life a party. For knowing that memories are a lacing together of one extraordinary moment after another.

Creativity

The most modest of meals becomes a feast when you put your hand to it. From the candles and flowers to the artful plating, you understand that a meal should delight ALL the senses. You bring this same creativity to your acting, your singing and your writing. I love watching you when an idea is forming itself in your head. I love how words tumble over one another as it bubbles out of you. Most recently, I have seen this creativity in your songwriting. Deep, poignant lyrics that pierce my heart. I look forward to watching you cultivate this gift in years to come. Thank you for a life sprinkled–yay verily, doused–with beauty.

Courage

I hardly think anyone can miss how much you have grown this year. Six or seven inches of vertical gain are difficult to overlook. And a man face now houses the eyes that used to belong to my little boy. But I think the most significant growth has been less obvious. Because it has happened inside.

Time after time this year you have put yourself out there, stepping into new situations–new school, new sport, new friendships, etc…. You acknowledge your fear, then plunge right into it. I can not tell you how proud I am of you. When you record your original songs and put them out there for your friends (and total strangers, for that matter) to see, I wonder what happened to that little boy with the practiced “shy look” who did not want to be noticed. When you dream audacious dreams, the mom in me wants to protect you and bid you set your sights a little more humbly. But you are teaching me with your courage. You make me want to be as brave as you.

Charity

Your kindness, your generosity, your intuition, your uninhibited displays of affection; these are gifts to everyone who knows you. They have been gift to me. I have loved watching you with your little niece this year. She adores you. I’m not surprised. 😉 I know you would give her the world if you could. Instead, you give her stuffed animals, dolls, clothes, books, toys… More importantly, you give her yourself. Your time. Your undivided attention. Your joy. This she loves about you. This I love about you. I know so much more about what it means to give myself away because of you. Thank you for that.

Dear son of mine, when I looked into your precious face for the first time fifteen years ago, I could not imagine how much richer, how much bigger, how much more fun my world was about to become. Thank you for being you. And thank you for letting me be your mommy.

Happy Birthday, Joshua!!

I love you!

God grant you many, many years!

*Photo at the top of the post: Josh with his cousins Anna and Ethan. (Thanks, Uncle Monty!)
**Photo at the bottom: Josh with his beautiful (inside and out) friends Gatlin and Jessie (Thank you, ladies!)

23

Wedding

Twenty-three years ago two children promised to love “until death…”  It was folly, really.  They were babies.  He was 22.  She was 20.  They had known one another 9 months.  What were they thinking? They had no idea what they were getting themselves into…

Twenty-three years.  Three babies.  Better or worse. Eight homes.  Thousands of miles traveled.  Richer or poorer. Hundreds of acquaintances.  A precious handful of really close friends.  Sickness and Health. Six dogs.  One cat.  An infinity of memories and moments…

I was the wide-eyed, innocent girl.  And that naively optimistic boy has loved me better than I deserve.  I owe him a thousand ‘thank you’s.  But today, I will offer him twenty-three.  Twenty-three thank yous for twenty three years.

1.  Thank you for loving me all the time, no matter what.  I know it hasn’t been easy.  And I don’t pretend to understand it.  But I am grateful, all the same.

2.  Thank you for being a fellow gypsy.  I have so many beautiful memories of our family, and of the two of us, in remarkable locales all over the world.  Thank you for watching all those Rick Steves videos with me and listening to me wag on incessantly about mind-numbing minutia.  You are a very good sport.

3.  Thank you for being the sane one.  I have never been qualified for the role.  It has been nice to know that while I flit about erratically, experiencing my ecstatic highs and my abysmal lows, that somewhere there is a tether of sanity that will never let me be completely lost.

4.  Thank you for providing for our family.  I don’t say it enough.  How do I tell you what it has meant to be home with our little ones as they grew up?  To witness the little miracles and discoveries.  To teach them.  To open the world for them.  To read and play.  I could never have done that without you.  It means more than I can say.

5.  Thank you for surrendering your suspicious nature with regard to food.  Does this sound familiar? “I don’t like that.”  “Really, how have you had it prepared?”  Oh, I’ve never eaten it, but I don’t like it.”  Or this?  “I just can’t eat squash.  I don’t like the name.”  🙂  Thank you for triumphing over your fear to become a fellow culinary explorer.  And thank you for understanding how much it means to me to eat artfully prepared food in a beautiful place.

6.  Thank you for being god of all things technological at our house.  Thank you for providing me the opportunity to remain blissfully ignorant and still have computers, phones, iPods, etc… that work.  🙂

7.  Thank you for our beautiful piano.  Thank you for buying it when we were so poor.  When we had nothing, you knew I needed a piano in my home.  So many hours of pleasure and therapy it has given me.  And, of course, as each of our children has grown up playing, the joy continues to multiply…exponentially.

8.  Thank you for being a godly man.  You haven’t done it for me.  But it does matter to me.  I respect and admire your integrity and your piety.

9.  Thank you for every art museum you have traipsed through with me.  I know sometimes you did it entirely as a gift to me.  But it seems to me that over the years you have developed your own affinity for them.  Sort of.  😉

10.  Thank you for all the made up words you sing to songs.  I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me at first.  Being a neurotic first born who needs things to be right, and who happens to remember every lyric she has ever heard, I cringed at your inaccuracies.  But over the years, I have come to prefer your…ahem…creative take on things.  You make me laugh.

11.  Thanks for Pikes Peak.  I know you thought I was crazy at first.  But you were unwilling to let me be crazy all by myself.  Thanks for all those trail runs at the Warner Parks as we prepared.  For slanting rays of sunlight, wild flowers, chipmunks, deer, squirrels.  Those still comprise some of my very favorite running memories.

12.  Thank you for indulging my passion for books.  I am a pretty thrifty shopper with my Goodwill/clearance rack wardrobe, but I do go a little crazy with books.  Thank you for understanding how important they are to me and for not cutting up my credit card or exiling me from Amazon.

13.  Thank you for spending New Years Eve in Times Square with Kelsey.  What a glorious memory that will always be for her.  I know your bladder will probably never be the same, but thank you for giving her that gift.

14.  Thank you for snow boarding with Jake, and for dozens of cub scout camping trips with both of the boys.  Thank you for teaching them how to be men.

15.  Thank you for taking care of all things financial on behalf of our family.  Thank you that I never have to worry my pretty little head about that.  I trust you. I have complete confidence in your ability and your judgment.  That is a wonderful feeling.

16.  Thank you for opening your heart to Orthodoxy.  I know that each of us has walked our own road to the Orthodox faith, and that it means something distinctly different to each of us.  But I am delighted that we were able to go there together.  I look forward to uncovering the riches of our faith over years and years to come.

17.  Thank you for your generosity.  Thank you that, even when we had nothing, we gave to others.  I remember the first budget you drew up for us.  I remember that the first line item was our tithe.  It was never open for negotiation.  I also remember that it was your goal for us to increase, not just the amount of our giving to others, but the percentage of our giving each year.  This we have done.  I believe God has honored that, and I highly esteem you for it.

18.  Thank you for loving my family.  Thank you that I have never had to choose between them and you.

19.  Thank you for Bill Cosby, Himself.  I love the DVD.  But I have always loved watching you watch it even more.  When you start laughing so hard you can hardly breathe, it doesn’t really matter any more what he is saying.  It’s funny.

20  Thanks for being my partner in the delightful, magical, terrifying, difficult, bewildering, wonderful adventure of parenting.  It has been (and continues to be) the most challenging and most rewarding experience of my life.  You have been a worthy partner in crime.

21.  Thank you for forgiveness.  Seventy times seventy times seventy times seven times.  I wish I didn’t require it so often.  I hope there is still more where that came from.

22.  Thank you for memories.  Thanks for jokes only our family knows.  Thanks for the stories and experiences that have become so much a part of the warp and weft of who we are we don’t know where they begin and end.

23.  Thank you for loving me all the time, no matter what. I know I already said that.  But it is the most important thing.  You have astounded me with your relentless love for me.  I have fought it sometimes.  Sometimes I didn’t even want it.  And I know I don’t deserve it.  “And this is love, not that we loved God, but that He first loved us…” Thanks for showing me what that looks like.

I love you…always.

Family2

*Photo at the bottom of the post copyright Angela Davis.

Of What Value, a Life?

We laid her body to rest on a cool, clear summer morning.  Blackberries were just beginning to ripen along the fence rows.  Sweet pea blossoms nodded in the breeze.  The whir of insects, and the intermittent gossip of birds, supplied the only sounds.  The cemetery was an island of green in a great field of freshly mown hay, lying in strips, waiting to be gathered into bundles of winter sustenance.

I remember walking down there with my grandmother as a little girl to visit the graves of our forebears and to share stories.  And now she will sleep there in those mountains where she raised her babies…where she rose in the pre-dawn hours and walked with my grandpa to the dairy barn that provided their livelihood…where she carved a garden out of the earth, then preserved its yield so that her family need never be hungry…where her table was always laden with good things, and her chicken and dumplings were the stuff of legend.

She welcomed her grandchildren (and later her great grandchildren) to this world apart.  It was a life of simple elegance.  You could see a million stars in the night sky, and almost as many lightening bugs hovering over the fields.  There were barns, and corn cribs, and old pieces of forgotten road to explore. Here the dogs frequently smelled of skunk, and the water smelled of the iron that was heavy in their well. And when the summer heat was too much, there was a deep swimming hole nearby that was always cold.  Life was slow here.  And good. We got snowbound one Christmas.  It was the best Christmas ever.

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord…they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”  Revelation 14:13

I have pondered this verse since the minister shared it at her funeral.  Even though she now abides in the Presence, I know that she has left bits and pieces of herself in us.  As I contemplate her legacy, the deeds that follow, here are some of the traits that live most vividly in my recollection, and I hope live, at some level, in me.

Extravagant Love She and my grandpa were married 71 years.  That, in itself, would be quite a feat.  The beautiful thing is that they were still crazy about each other.  He used a different voice when he spoke to her than he used with anyone else.  I have seen Grandpa teary before, but never in my life have I heard him sob……until yesterday.  He has lost his sweetheart.

All of us who sat on her porch yesterday, who gathered around grandpa and sang away the afternoon, have been the grateful recipients of that love.  That doesn’t mean she was oblivious to our faults.  She never hesitated to offer words of correction or advice when she felt they were warranted.  But she found ways to make each of us feel as though we had some singular value, as though we were special.

Exceptional Vitality She tilled her garden until she was in her 80s.  Quite frankly, I am in awe of that.  My mom laughed about the fact that when Grandma went along with the sisters on summer vacations they thought she would give them an excuse to move slowly.  They were wrong.  She and my grandpa visited my aunt in Germany when I was a teenager.  And I still have fond memories of a trip our whole family, grandparents included, made to the beach after I was already married.  Hers was a vitality of mind as well.  Always learning, always curious.

Perhaps this was one of the hardest things about watching as both body and mind betrayed her after her stroke.  We knew the vivacious woman who lived inside.  And even within the confines of a body that no longer did everything she asked it to, those sparks of ebullience, of wit and good humor, still emerged from time to time.

Extraordinary Generosity The line of mourners stretched across the room, down the hall, and out the door at times.  So many people loved her and came to say so.  She had given of herself to them…encouragement, advice, understanding, sympathy, courage.  Some of them she had taught, others she had fed, driven, served, mentored.  Grandma had a way of seeing people others do not see and drawing them into her loving embrace.  My daughter is very like her in this.  I loved hearing their stories.

“How does someone who lived so simply leave such a hole?” my cousin Amy asked through her tears.  My grandma was not famous.  I’ll warrant you have never heard her name.  But every life that intersected hers was made richer by her presence.  I would take that over being famous any day.  She lived a quiet life of ordinary, extraordinary beauty.  And that is profoundly valuable.  I am blessed to have known her.

The Martyrdom of Marriage

Corpsebride

Marriage is hell.

Sometimes.

I did not sign up for that.

I signed up for a husband who would understand me all the time.  He would anticipate needs without me speaking them so that I would never have to humble myself and ask for help.  He would be romantic and creative, regardless of the pressures of providing for a family, or responsibilities he might have to others.  But, more than anything, he would fill all the empty places in me.  He would make me feel beautiful, smart, and important.  Any unanswered questions I had…about me…about whether I mattered…he would answer.

My husband has failed me in this.

I imagine he had a list of expectations too.  And I can assure you, whatever was on that list, I have failed him.  More than he has failed me.

For a long time we limped along in our failings, too polite to say to the other how disappointed we were.  Too afraid to talk about the things that mattered.  Until all the resentment finally hit critical mass and exploded like a compromised container of toxic waste.  And the husband I had lived with peaceably, if not always passionately, for years, became an object of loathing to me.  I could no longer remember any of the things I loved about him.

And I made his life hell. I wanted to hurt him as much as I felt he had hurt me.  I was so angry at him for not being who I needed him to be.  Who I thought I needed him to be.

“The collapse of the family today, the rate of divorce–all this is due to the non-acceptance by man of marriage as martyria, and this means patience, endurance, travelling together along a difficult, yet ultimately glorious path.”

~Alexander Schmemann

For four years we have fought and scratched and clawed our way back to one another.  Our kind and able couselor taught us to be honest.  Generous friends loved us viciously and refused to let us give up–and I really wanted to give up.  And we learned to cling to God like a man lost in the desert clings to his last few drops of water.

Healing has come.  Is still coming.  And we have learned so much.  But perhaps the most important thing we have learned is to give one another permission to be who we are.  And to allow the other to fail us.  In those empty places where I miss him and he misses me, God is.  And we learn a little more about surrender.  And about the kind of love that gives without requiring response.  The love of a martyr.

martyr: a person who is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause

Turns out, each of us was what the other needed all along.  And we are finding a rich, seasoned love that is worth every torturous step it took to get here.  If you find yourself in the hell season at present, PLEASE, don’t give up!!!  Ask for help.  Gather a band of brothers and sisters around you.  And ask God to meet you in the empty, broken places…and to teach you to love like He loves.

“…marriage, as life itself, is above all a journey, and its goal, as that of life itself, is the Kingdom of God…Then what will remain is true love, the one that overcomes death and gives us a taste of the Kingdom…It is this love that transforms through forgiveness, and so in the marriage, in this martyrdom,…we grow together as to constitute in the end the very image of that Divine Love between God and man.”

~Alexander Schmemann

I Choose You…

Dear husband of mine,

Twenty-five years together have taught us much. Perhaps one of the most important lessons is that love is not something that happens to you. Love is a choice. A choice you make…or do not make…every day. I have not always chosen love. For this, I am sorry. Sometimes I have chosen self-interest, novelty, defensiveness, lies….

This, I regret.

From here on out, so long as God gives us on this earth,

I choose love.

I choose you.

I choose you. Today and every day, I choose you.

I choose you to shape me. To make me who I am. By loving me, all the time, no matter what, you give me a safe place to become. How do I thank you for that? You also rub me the wrong way. Sometimes. You provoke me. You make me angry. You misunderstand. This I have hated. This I have resisted. But I have come to know this is gift. How ironic! That every time you provoke me, I am challenged. I am made…somehow… better. It is a solemn and difficult process. I can’t say I like it. Always. But I know it is necessary. I am glad I am walking this with you. You, I trust. You are safe. Thank you for that.

I choose you. Today and every day, I choose you.

I choose you to share the adventure….

…the adventure of parenting our three wild and crazy and infinitely wondrous children. Who knew we could have so much fun? Who knew how deeply we could hurt? Who knew how much we would worry? (How much I would worry.) Who knew that those little babies would grow into a lovely young woman and two fine young men that we would admire, respect, and immensely enjoy?

And…..who knew that all the brochures about being grandparents are woefully understated? That we would see one another in completely new ways. Through the wee one…

I choose you. Today and every day, I choose you.

I choose you for the explore. For all the world that we have not seen…..yet. You are my favorite traveling companion. I pick the hotels…sumptuous and romantic…or atmospheric and cheap. And you get us there. Flights. Rental cars. And I will regale you with history and trivia. And you will pretend that you are interested. And I will love you for that. And each of us will see something different. And you will tell me. And I will tell you. And it will be twice as good. Because we are together.

I choose you. Today and every day, I choose you.

I choose you for all that matters. For faith. For family. For friends. For stories no one else knows. For history that need not be explained. For the unsaid…but seen. How do you ever give twenty-five years of memory…of story…to someone else?

I choose you. Today and every day, I choose you.

I choose you for the unknown. For all the unseen that lies ahead. Tomorrow. And the day after that. For everything that will be more wonderful than we imagined. For pain that will threaten to destroy us. I choose you. Because I know that with you is a thousand times better than without you.

I am not innocent. I know it will be more difficult than I imagine. I know that there will be times when I want to quit. When, for just one day, I want to choose me. When I do not want to care about you. But it is more important than either of us know.

God chose you.

For me.

To make me something I cannot become by myself.

I would know that someone.

I would become…her.

AND…

I would that you become who He made you to be.

I know I am the sandpaper that will rub you raw. I will provoke, and irritate, and discomfit. I am sorry it must hurt. I would that it be other.

It cannot.

To that end….

I choose you. Today and every day, I choose you.

Two Tickets to Paradise

I’m leaving on a jet plane. Don’t know when I’ll be back again….

Just how many song lyrics do you think I can steal for this post? 🙂

Tomorrow, Mike and I will celebrate 25 years of marriage. Against all odds. Despite all we both did to wreck it. It is nothing short of a miracle. So we are off to celebrate. Tonight we will sleep at the extraordinary Peace Lodge pictured above. It sits in the midst of the beautiful La Paz Waterfall Gardens.

Over the next few days we will zip-line over the top of the rain forest, sit in volcano heated hot springs while watching Arenal spew hot lava and steam, ride white water through gorges and past waterfalls, take night-time walks through the jungle, watch the sun sink into the Pacific Ocean, all while surrounded by remarkable wildlife.

There will be a little anniversary post tomorrow. Then, over the next few days, a couple of posts from the archives with something to say about marriage and loving long. I will also be tweeting the occasional photo as I have access to internet. But do not hate me if I do not respond to comments for now. I am otherwise occupied. 😉

To all of you who are making the choice to love…every day…hang in there! It is more important than you know! Do not lose heart.

Best Beloveds

My favorite cards are those that bear an image of the giver…hand-cut, perhaps, with scrawls of crayon or heaps of glitter…or with words, carefully chosen from someplace deep inside.

In honor of the day, a few words…hand cut Valentines, if you will…for my best beloveds. And a question: What are the words your best beloveds need to hear from you? Words only you can give them? They do not have to be flowery or fancy. They need only be yours.

Mike my love for you is an Old Vine Zinfandel, the yield of gnarled vines much twisted by the wind, and irrevocably entwined by the many years of growing into one another. The grapes…crushed and bruised and left to rest, ferment and age, forming an intoxicating nectar. Rich, delicious, warm, potent, lively. I drink to you today, best beloved. Salud!

Kelsey my love for you is a warm frothy cappuccino, sipped slowly at an outdoor cafe in Salzburg. Its dark bitterness, the depths of you which must be sought out, deep calling to deep. And the rich softness of the cream, your tenderness, your gift for seeing the unseen, your generosity of spirit. I look forward to a lifetime of lingers with you, best beloved.

Jake, my love for you is a box of dark chocolate truffles. Even now I can see your face as you savor. Everything. Wonderful food, a glorious sunset, a painting that pierces to your depths. And music. So much music. Thank you for long talks, profound ponderings, and for extravagant love. I treasure you, best beloved.

Joshua, my love for you is ice cream with syrups and candies and sprinkles, served in an elegant stemmed bowl at a table set just so. It is all curiosity and celebration. It is making things grand and lovely. It is enthusiasm and creativity and joie de vivre. You are an inestimable gift to me, best beloved.

Kenzie, my love for you is a bowl of ripe berries. So sweet it almost hurts. You are everything fresh and wild and springtime and delight and new. Happy first Valentines Day, best beloved! God grant you many more.

Happy Valentines Day to all of you, my friends! I am grateful for you. May you have the courage to love boldly and extravagantly, and to give yourself away, today and every day.

Loving Humility: a Terrible Force

Loving humility is a terrible force: it is the strongest of all things, and there is nothing else like it.
~Fyodor Dostoevsky

The whole page is filled with underlines and little stars and notes to myself in the margins. I have read it over and over. It seems such a radical idea. “Loving humility is a terrible force…” Really?

…whenever we give up anything or suffer anything, not with a sense of rebellious bitterness, but willingly and out of love, this makes us not weaker but stronger.

It should not be so surprising to me. I have, after all, experienced it…

If you are a regular reader, you know that Mike and I have had our share of challenges. During the worst of it, one of the things I most despised about him was his humility. I told him he was weak. That he did not have enough self-worth to assert himself. I was horrible to him, yet he persisted in loving me. I could not understand this. It did not fit my picture of strength.

By loving or hating another, I cause the other in some measure to become that which I see in him or her. Not for myself alone, but for the lives of all around me, my love is creative, just as my hatred is destructive.

Mike’s love….which at times I did not even want…created a safe place for me to deal with my own demons. To learn to allow God to fill the empty places inside me, instead of demanding that of others. Though he could not fix me, his love WAS creative. His relentless faith in who I could be nourished me, even when I was unaware of it. For this, I am profoundly grateful.

[Christ’s] suffering love has a creative effect upon me, transforming my own heart and will, releasing me from bondage, making me whole, rendering it possible for me to love in a way that would lie altogether beyond my powers, had I not first been loved by him.

When I see my children, my family, my friends making destructive choices, I want to fix them. But this usually lies beyond my control, even if I knew what was best for them, which I often do not. So I will love them. Without arrogance. Without manipulation. Humbly and generously. As I have been loved. And I will trust in the creative power of love.

Love is strong as death…Many waters cannot quench love, rivers cannot wash it away. ~Song of Songs 8:6-7

*Unattributed quotes in the post are from Metropolitan Kallistos Ware in The Orthodox Way, page 82 (the page with the underlines and stars and notes and such…).

 

As a Man Thinketh…

As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. ~Proverbs 23:7

We all know that person…

She walks into the room just as everyone is celebrating someone’s good news: A job promotion, a college acceptance letter, a new baby. Her response is predictable. Something along the line of:

“That’s SO not fair! Nothing like that EVER happens to me. Must be nice…”

How is it that some of us simply cannot rejoice with those who rejoice? Why must their good be a source of jealousy and bitterness?

We all know that person…

His cancer is incurable. The pain is intense. He is a good man. A loving husband and father. He has given so much. It is not “fair“. And yet… Those who come to encourage him are encouraged by him. He radiates a renegade joy that defies explanation. His last days on earth are a continual giving of himself to those who will soon walk without him.

How does he do that?

As a man thinketh…

Maya Angelou tells of a difficult time in her life. She is a single mother, barely making ends meet. Desperate. Hopeless. She meets a man who challenges her to make a list of things she is grateful for. It seems ludicrous at first. But she is just desperate enough to try it. She pulls out a yellow legal pad, and excruciatingly digs for some small grace. She scratches the first thought across the paper. Then the next. All of a sudden, she can’t write fast enough. She is still adding to that list today. That single act was a turning point in her life. Nothing was ever the same.

In her beautiful book, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voscamp writes of a similar challenge. Grieved and embittered by life experiences that seem too much to bear, she just wants out. But she too is challenged…first by a friend…then by this: On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it.” (I Cor. 11). The challenge: to give thanks. In the middle of the hard. For ordinary, extraordinary things. Specific things. Things like…

1.  Morning shadows across old floors.
54. Moonlight on pillows.
243. Clean sheets smelling like wind.

It. Changes. Everything…

We tend to find what we are looking for. When we believe life is sacramental and that God has given us every good thing, we expect to find our days filled with gifts. And they are. When we are cynical and suspicious, and constantly on the lookout for those who will cheat us and take what is ours, we find that too.

It is easy for me to see this in others. It is more difficult to recognize when I myself am doing it.

You wanna know something crazy?

I have been doing it about this very thing.

I am grieved because someone I love often sees life through suspicious, cynical eyes. Unable to rejoice in the good gifts that have been given to her. Unable to rejoice in the good gifts given to others. My grief becomes frustration. Then anger. And suddenly I can only see her through my own bitterness and suspicion. I am blind to the best in her. Arrrggggh!

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. ~Philippians 4:8

Incidentally, I do not advocate some Pollyanna naivety about what is true. But all of us pass “truth” through filters. If those filters are clean, we will find the true and the beautiful even in the most agonizing situations. But if our filters are polluted by self-interest, suspicion and greed, we will be unable to see good even when it is handed to us on a silver platter. With chocolate on top.

Father, please wash my heart and my mind. Help me to see as You see. Help me to filter the atmosphere around me with the atmosphere of heaven…

The Kingdom of God creates within us an atmosphere of heaven, as opposed to the atmosphere of hell that is radiated by a person when hades abides in his heart. The role of Christians in the world is to filter the atmosphere on earth and expand the atmosphere of the Kingdom of God. ~Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

May it be so.

Man Child

When I am a very old lady
and can’t remember my name,
or what I just ate for lunch…
I will remember
that once upon a time
you wanted to marry me.

I will think of the way
you put crayons
between your toes
til you needed them.
And how there was a place
in every outfit
for a sword.

I will see you
putting pictures on paper,
images emerging
from that mysterious
inside
place…
…while my heart
pounded
with wonder.

I will see you,
walking stick in hand,
pack of dogs at your feet.
Master of the farm.

Lego creations
of marvelous intricacy.
Do you remember those?

It is funny to me
how in old videos
you leap into the frame.
Ebullient.
Irrepressible.
Tumult of delight.

Cacophony of ideas
whirl round
in your head…
words
not
fast
enough…

And music…
what shall I say of that?
Of being paid to sing,
when you would have gladly
sung for free?
Of backyard operas?
Of piano pieces rendered
in a breathless
allegro molto vivace!

Did you know then…
that she was the muse
that would sing you?
Whose seduction
you could not escape?

There is a picture of you.
You hold a Bible
near your heart.
When did it sink
so deep
inside you?
That God grace…
that bit of glory
uniquely yours.

And of love…
You never have known how to love,
except wholly.
You never have been able to give,
but all.
It has been costly.
It has been redemptive.
It has been good.

How could I have known
that in you, my son,
I would find a
friend for my soul?
One whose heart
resounds…
words unspoken
but known.

I wonder…
in those later years
when memory is leaking away
like water
from so many holes
in a tired old pail,
will I remember this day
when my man-child
became man?
How my heart swelled with pride
and gratitude
and gladness?

I think it will be part
of the deep knowing
…that lingers
when words are gone.
I hope so.

Happy 18th Birthday, Jake! Being your mother is inexpressible gift. I could not be more proud of the man you are becoming. Thank you for loving extravagantly, for seeing deeply, for listening intently. Thank you for the unadulterated joy you bring to my life and to the lives of others. Thank you for curiosity and creativity. Thank you for all the times when I am doing ordinary things in our home and am serenaded by extraordinary music. Yours.

Life with you is always an adventure. And the adventure has only just barely begun. Godspeed! I love you!

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