Category: Love


Happy Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. It’s an American holiday set up to provide us with an opportunity to remember how blessed we are. I suspect in practice people get more excited about the food, the shopping, and the holiday movie debuts than giving thanks, but I could be wrong about that.

Myself? I tend not to get too excited about Thanksgiving Day. Many years finds me working, as I should be doing tomorrow. I do think it’s one good way to spend the day. It’s a practical way to demonstrate gratitude and a great way to give back some of what I’ve been given.

As a matter of fact, I was getting ready for work this evening when a random iTunes choice reminded me of one thing for which I am profoundly grateful. iTunes plucked Barlow Girls’ “I Need You to Love Me” out of the thousands of songs it had available. I stopped in my tracks and just about cried. I don’t have words to explain how grateful I am that God does love me. It’s amazing, you know?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent His Son not to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:16, 17

Not condemned, but saved to life everlasting, because “God so loved.” Let me take a deep breath and sit with that for a moment. Can you imagine what kind of love that must be? How vast, how deep, how unchanging, how… incomprehensible… unfathomable… It’s beyond my ability to grasp, which might be why I find it overwhelming. I don’t really have any thing that I can relate to it.

You know, I’ll never have to sit with a flower, plucking petals and intoning, “He loves me.” A petal falls, and the next is plucked. “He loves me not.” He always loves me. His love is unwavering and certain. I’ll never be handed a stone with which to sate my hunger instead of bread. His love doesn’t play games. He may provide for my need in some unexpected fashion, but the provision will be ample. I’ll never be able to escape or be so stinking rotten that my stench will frighten off any loving advance. His love is always present no matter the height, the depth, the time, or the opposition. I’ll never be so broken that I’m disqualified. His love can find the smallest fragment and fuse a person whole. I’ll never not be worth His time or effort. I’ll never be too much work for Him. His love is everlastingly patient and kind. His love bears, believes, hopes, and endures. His love never gives up on me.

To make imagining a likeness even more impossible, I am not the only person whom He loves like this. He loves the whole world. He loves YOU.

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a great day.

The Best of Us

A few weeks ago during a break, I saw a blurb on the news about a new blood test being developed. Can’t tell you what it was called. What I do remember is that it’s made to test for Down Syndrome. The reporter had all these great things to say about the test’s accuracy, about how it has the potential to reduce the number of amnio procedures (which carry some risk to the baby), and then, tacked on as an afterthought, mentioned that some folks are concerned that this test may lead to an increased number of abortions.

Out of curiosity, I’ve done some looking around. If you pull up the Wikipedia page, it does mention that many Down syndrome diagnosed pregnancies are aborted. The percentages quoted were over 90%. I didn’t check around enough to see where they got those numbers, because I got distracted by an old NY Times article that talks about rising parental concern in 2007. It also helpfully provided a link to a Pub Med abstract, Termination rates after prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, spina bifida, anencephaly, and Turner and Klinefelter syndromes: a systematic literature review. European Concerted Action: DADA (Decision-making After the Diagnosis of a fetal Abnormality). Isn’t that a mouthful? It was done in 1999, and it says Down syndrome abortion rates were 90 – 92%. It makes me feel a bit sick to read on the National Down Syndrome Society myths and truths site that “one in every 691 live births is a child with Down syndrome, representing approximately 6,000 births per year in the United States alone.” The operative words in the NDSS statement would be “live births.”

The Wikipedia page offered another interesting piece of info. It said in its history section:

Most individuals with Down syndrome were institutionalized, few of the associated medical problems were treated, and most died in infancy or early adult life. With the rise of the eugenics movement, 33 of the (then) 48 U.S. states and several countries began programs of forced sterilization of individuals with Down syndrome and comparable degrees of disability. “Action T4” in Nazi Germany made public policy of a program of systematic murder.

How about this little gem?

Plastic surgery has sometimes been advocated and performed on children with Down syndrome, based on the assumption that surgery can reduce the facial features associated with Down syndrome, therefore decreasing social stigma, and leading to a better quality of life.[90]

Or this?

People with Down syndrome often encounter patronizing attitudes and discrimination in the wider community.

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not all bad, and there is a lot of good being done for and by those with Down syndrome. I’m cherry picking out some of the darker bits because of a thought that occurred to me. “Why,” I’ve been wondering, “do people sometimes have such a hard time with those who must cope with disabilities, handicaps, and other unusual challenges?” It’s certainly not confined to those people who have Down syndrome. Mistreatment of the unfortunate and weak is a common theme in human history. Why? Why is that?

I’m sure there are lots and lots of reasons, some of which, like bullying, leap to mind. I’m not a fan of bullies, people who want power over others, so when it’s done its leaping, my thoughts go something like, “people stink. There are lots of rotten ones out there.” I do think that’s true, but I also think I’m being a bit stupid when I leave it at that.

Last week, my eyes lit upon the jacket of “Forrest Gump,” and I thought, “You know, he did okay. He just needed a lot of help, and he got it. People who wouldn’t take care of themselves even would help take care of him.” Oh… oh… wait, is that an idea? He just needed a lot of help. That’s something I’ve noticed about Kimberly. She can do so much, but for much of it, she needs help, and she needs more help than “normal” people.

Sometimes, people are pretty rotten and selfish. We like power. We don’t want to inconvenience ourselves to help others, but I really wonder if our profound antagonism toward someone like Kimberly who has unusual and profound need isn’t more than simple selfishness. I wonder if people like her aren’t meant to bring out the best in us, if their need should not invite exploitation but rather call out of us love, compassion, humility, steadfastness, service, patience, and other virtues. I wonder if we shrink away not out of greed, but out of fear of measuring ourselves against that yawning deficit and finding our own selves lacking. I wonder… I wonder… are the needs of others a mirror into which I am afraid to look?

Drawing

Blood tests are never fun. They always involve needles, poking, prodding, and at least a little pain. I don’t know anybody who enjoys the experience. Unfortunately, in these United States, blood tests are a fact of life. They represent an accurate and relatively noninvasive way for doctors to acquire facts. Until something better comes along, we’ll all be getting poked and prodded in the name of good health.

Most of us can embrace that. Not all are so fortunate, though, and my sister Kimberly is one of those folks. She hates getting poked more than anybody else I know, but still, every year, she has to go through it. Today was this year’s draw.

My family, and my mom especially, try very hard to help prepare Kimberly to face the terror. We sat at home this morning and practiced (without needles) step by step until Kimberly was feeling confident about it. She was so scared at first that she wouldn’t even let us touch her, and that was at home with people she knew and no unfamiliar objects. When she was ready, the lot of us piled in the car to be her moral support. The plan was to get the blood drawn and then head off to her favorite Chinese restaurant for lunch. We got to the lab, got everything ready, and she was doing well enough to bare her arm in preparation for the stick.

It was great until seconds before the phlebotomist walked over. I don’t know what happened. She was fine, and then she was panicked. Her sleeve slithered back down in a blink of an eye. Her body went stiff. She went from confident and happy to scared and stiff.

I don’t think she was reacting to anybody. Everybody was so nice and helpful toward her. The phlebotomist was careful to explain. The lab tech was very patient. We all tried to reason with her, to persuade her (Mom told her that Mom needed Kimberly’s help to help Mom take care of Kimberly), to soothe her, and even to bribe her, but Kimberly was having none of it. Her fear ratcheted up higher and higher until she was starting to make a lot of noise, and we realized that we were going to have to move her away from the whole group.

As soon we started to move, she bolted. She ran for the wall and pressed herself, all curled up defensively, against it. Her tears plastered her face, snot was leaking from her nose, and as she panted rapidly in fear, I thought she was about to vomit. The poor kid…. the poor, poor kid… I cuddled myself around her and tried to calm her down a little bit. Shelah and I managed to get her up and walking toward the ER. As soon as she realized that we weren’t leaving, though, she did what Mom told us is called the Downs drop. She went totally limp and hit the floor. There was no holding her, no keeping her up or restraining her. I think I’d have had more luck trying to hold onto a soapy balloon full of jello.

She stayed on the floor for a few moments, fighting and flopping against both family and staff, until Shelah managed to time a snag and get her carried to a stretcher. There she was enveloped in a blanket, carefully pinned, and speedily poked. At that point, the sun came out. Everything was great! She hopped up and said, “I’m so proud!” The drawing was complete.

It was a trying experience. Everything we could think of to help Kimberly, we tried, but at the crunch, her fear won and forced a situation where we had to use force to help her. All the practice, the bribery, the education, the kindness, the whatever… it wasn’t enough. The poor kid, you know?

I’m not any different. I could so identify with the feelings she projected. Blood draws won’t make me panic like that, but if I think about some of the places I’ve had to go inside myself, I’m just like her. I’ve been where I couldn’t be touched, where I would fight and flop to get away, where it didn’t matter how much I’d practiced, where the bribes became irrelevant, where my trust failed, where I would injure myself to escape those trying to help me, where my fear was so consuming that I’d choose sickness and death over healing and life if left to my own devices… Thank God for a Savior!

How do You do it, God? How do you keep working with us over and over even though we panic and drop on You? How is it that Your love never fails? How do You continue in Your longing to keep on gathering?

Matthew 23

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.

Integrity

Let’s take a look at integrity today, shall we? It’s one of my favorite words in a long list of words I like, and it’s one I’ve spent some time absorbing. Integrity is something I very much want to have present in my life. Like most everything in life, its presence has been something of a process.

An important part of this process has been asking questions. As I began to ask them, an unpalatable realization emerged. I was not as honest a person as I’d thought I was. I’d been fooled, I was fooling myself, and since I was doing that, I wasn’t telling other people the truth, either. This hurt. I’d prided (can you tell what got hurt?) myself on being an honest person, and I’d had nothing but contempt for liars. To find this discrepancy in myself was indeed painful.

Unfortunately, in some ways,I didn’t help myself very well in dealing with my own lies, but that’s another story. What I think that I did do well is to search for understanding of what honesty means. Along the way I learned that there is a difference between behaving honestly (what I’d been attempting to achieve) and being an honest person.

Being an honest person is much more demanding. You can’t settle for a mask or the appearance of honesty. Instead it requires some soul searching to see if the honesty goes any deeper than the surface. You have to look at uncomfortable things like motivation. Honesty is a good thing, but there are bad reasons to pursue it, like pride in one’s good behavior. I can tell you firsthand that pride in one’s honesty can give a person an unwarranted sense of superiority.

I was trying to move past the mask. I did the soul searching and got very angry about what a crappy person I was. That, by the way, would have been me and not God piling on the blame and hate. He doesn’t operate like that. Anyway, I also dragged out a concordance and started looking up references containing honesty. I pulled out dictionaries and found definitions of honesty. I even got into the thesaurus and found synonyms for honesty and repeated the process with some of the synonyms.

Not surprisingly, integrity was listed as a synonym. Honesty and integrity go hand in hand. At the time, all I knew about integrity was that it could be used instead of honesty, and it would mean the same thing. It was a synonym, right? Well, that is true, but as I dug some more, I had a beautiful insight.

Here’s the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of integrity:

1 : firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility
2 : an unimpaired condition : soundness
3 : the quality or state of being complete or undivided : completeness

Let’s compare this to honesty, shall we?

1 obsolete : chastity
2 a : fairness and straightforwardness of conduct b : adherence to the facts : sincerity
3 : any of a genus (Lunaria) of European herbs of the mustard family with toothed leaves and flat disk-shaped siliques

We’ll skip the obsolete meaning and the one about the mustard family, because we’re talking about people, and focus on door #2. Honesty, the “fairness and straighforwardness of conduct,” could be fairly mistaken as a behavioral measurement, could it not? You do this, this, and this, and you’re considered honest. Yay! You look good. However, let’s go back to integrity and pick out a couple  of words, like “condition” and “state.” Those go a little deeper than “conduct.” You start talking about the state or condition of something, and you’re talking about what it’s like. You might even be talking about its essence, that elusive element that makes it what it actually is. Interesting, no?

Let’s look at another dictionary’s definition of integrity, which is what I did to reach that insight. I looked things up all over the place, because I was trying hard to understand what I was reading and not be writing my own mistaken ideas into it. Integrity is:

1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
2. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire.
3. a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition: the integrity of a ship’s hull.

Look at that. Isn’t it beautiful? Whole, entire, undiminished, sound, unimpaired, perfect – I don’t know about your heart, but that’s exactly what mine was straining toward. God says things in the Bible about how His people will be a “new creation”, that we’ll be born again and have eternal life, and that the life we have will be “to the full.” If you go snooping about the Bible, you can find all kinds of good things God says about the people He calls His. You can even find some references regarding integrity. I like I Kings 9:4-5 and the ones in Proverbs, personally, except for 29:10. But, yeah, beautiful!

There I was with a disconnect between who I was and who I wanted to be, between who I was and who I should have been, and there’s integrity, a word meaning wholeness, perfection, and unimpaired condition. Now, remember that my goal in life is and was already at that point to love God with my heart and mind, soul and strength. How do ya’ do that without integrity? How do you do that without wholeness or soundness? How does a person who is diminished or impaired or broken all to pieces even try to love God with their whole being? Got me! I don’t even want to try. I don’t think it’s possible, and I started asking God specifically for integrity.

For myself, honesty alone doesn’t cut it. I need something more than “straightforwardness of conduct” to – well – keep me honest. Integrity, however, seems to fit admirably. It’s got more depth and, to me, more hope to it. It’s about being honest all the way through. It’s about wholeness and soundness and being a person who actually might be able to love God with all that they are.

I even hear that God likes it! See?

I Chronicles 29:17a

I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.

Catch you later!

A Wooden “I Love You”

Last week was a busy one. With summer’s end nearing, I was trying to get several projects finished while the weather holds. It’s best to caulk the bathroom and paint and varnish and all that when it can be done outside or with the windows open, so I spent Friday and Saturday busily working. It wasn’t all chores. I also had a chance to say “I love you” and “I care” in a creative manner.

You see, Carey had a pretty stressful week. Some of it was good stress – like being a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding – and some of it was flat-out hard. Fortified with lots of hugs, I sent her off to Wedding World on Friday. I probably should have packed her an extra box of tissues. Didn’t think of that, though, because I was already scheming about a surprise I had in mind for her, something that would be a special way to let her know that she is loved.

In case you didn’t know, there are lots of ways to say, “I love you.” One fellow by the name of Gary Chapman wrote several books on what he calls “The 5 Love Languages.” According to Chapman, a love language would be “a primary way of expressing and interpreting love.” He believes that a person will give and receive love in one of five ways.

Briefly, the languages are Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. These are pretty straightforward. Words people need to be told in so many words, “I love you.” Chances are that they say “I love you” a lot, too. Quality Time folks want and give attention. You might be able to tell what they care about by how they spend their time. The Receiving Gifts crowd aren’t greedy. It’s that nothing says “I love you” to them like the giving and receiving of gifts. Know anybody who is always doing stuff for others? Their language might be Acts of Service. Try doing something for them, and see if they smile. My mom does! The people who need hugs and give them freely are likely to be Physical Touch folks.

The 5 love languages probably should not be considered to be hard and fast rules. What I’ve seen is that individuals will most likely express and accept love using all five, and that primary might only be in use barely more often than the others. For instance, I’d be a Quality Time person, but words are pretty important to me. Carey is a touch person, which would be what prompted all of the hugs, but I happen to know that she won’t turn up her nose at gifts. Then again, there are people who have a strong primary, like my friend Lana, who loves gifts, or my friend Steph, whom I used to call tactile, because she was always touching the people in her space.

One fantastic outcome of Chapman’s work is the awareness it raises about how differently people can function. We don’t all communicate  using the same methods. There are many ways for me to tell others that they’re loved, and they might be using some of them to say the same to me. Sometimes, they even overlap. Think about it. My thing is quality time. There’s not much, if anything, that can be done without some investment of time. Giving somebody a hug takes a little time. Telling somebody they’re loved takes some time. Acts of service can definitely take time, and gifts? Well, just buying something takes time, and if you’re making it, it’s a good bet more time will be involved.

Speaking of gifts, maybe I should move onto my wooden message. Over the last year, I’ve worked on various projects, like building shelving, that involvedg boards. All of these projects left me with various pieces of scrap wood. I was looking at them on Thursday last week, looking at Carey’s room, and had an idea. “Mom,” I said in a moment of Carey-free space, “I’m going to build Carey a bedside table while she’s gone.”

“Yes!” my mom replied. “I’m in!”

Carey left Friday morning, and that night I started working on her table. She’d been wanting one to replace the stack o’ boxes currently gracing her bedside. Before I started working, I of course, like always, drew up extensive plans. All ten lines easily fit onto a single Post-it note, which I never looked at again after I started. 😛 With Shelah’s help (she got to satisfy her craving for hand work with sanding, planing, and using my drill press) on Saturday morning, I think it took about 8 hours of labor to build the table. Once built, we turned it over to Mom, who was finished painting it by Saturday night. Even Stephers got involved. She picked up a few things for us to help make the table perfect. It just looked great. I was a little jealous, to be honest. I may have to make one for myself.

Sunday morning, Mom came up for “coffee,” and we surprised Carey with the table. She loved it! Judging by her response, she also felt loved. That was the best part.

This was a cool thing to do for a lot of reasons. The table itself filled a need. It will certainly function a little better than those long suffering boxes. It’s also a good example of something I love about my family, that we make a great team. We’re even greater when we’re doing something sneaky. Carey felt loved and supported! Furthermore, it was a great opportunity to express that love and support to her utilizing some of those other languages and gifts possessed by my family members. There just aren’t always good opportunities for that. Last but not least, that table also made a great home for those lonely pieces of scrap, something I find immensely satisfying. There’s a lovely symbolism in turning “junk” into treasure.

Hope you’ve had a great week, and that you had your own wooden “I love you” story!