Tag Archives: Love

Daffodils

The daffodils are blooming. These little spot of sunshine along the country drive on my way to work are a sure sign spring is here. But it’s not just when daffodils bloom that makes them special, it’s where.

Daffodils bloom from bulbs and are not as easily spread as seed wildflowers. They’re not spread by the wind or wild animals; they generally require human transplanting. That makes their seemingly random placement along the road, where there is no other apparent evidence of human habitation, not a mystery but a historical marker. When I see an unexpected clump of yellow by the side of the road, I know to look closer. I can then often see what I’d have otherwise missed: a long unused driveway; a pile of rocks, perhaps from an old chimney; or just a telltale cluster of trees, planted to provide shade and hope.

As the daffodils’ sunshine warms my heart, I wonder about the hands that planted them and the family she loved. Was their life happy or hard? Was this a place of love or tragedy? Or, as is generally the case with humans, a bit of both? I can’t ever know these answers, but I can be grateful for her endowment to those of us who followed her. Her investment of time and energy has left us with a small bit of the beauty and hope that were, I believe, the reasons that drove her to plant them in the first place. It is her legacy.

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in.” –Greek Proverb

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Race


There’s a lot of discussion these days about race. Some say things are getting better, some say worse. I honestly don’t know which, because I’m white in America. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel racism very personally, as it affects my family…our daughters aren’t white.

Born in China, my girls are what one GOP politician recently called “yellows”. They’ve been teased and called names and had kids pull on the corners of their eyes. It’s hard as a parent to see your child bullied. It somehow seems worse when the taunts are racist. My girls are innocent; they didn’t choose to be brought to the other side of the world and expected to make their way in a community that sometimes treats them differently. I’ve occasionally wondered if our choice was fair to them, but it no longer matters. It’s done, and they’re here, and I’m beyond grateful that they are. But they have to live with that choice, along with our nation’s long struggle with racism.

I don’t know what the answer is or how we heal our country. I don’t know how to fulfill the dream of judging others based on the content of their character, and not on the color of their skin or the shape of their eyes. I only know that when we don’t, it makes me angry. I get angry that my daughters and millions like them are judged on the most superficial of traits. I get afraid that we allow our politicians to stoke our fears of “the other”. And I mourn for the hurt that it causes us all. But I also believe that most people are good. I believe that our nation was founded on the idea that we can become better, as we have on many fronts over our history. I believe fear of those different from us breaks down when we get to know those others. I haven’t given up. All we need is to build bridges on a personal basis. Please pledge with me to build those bridges. Get to know people like my daughters. We’re all children of God.

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”  —Martin Luther King, Jr.


Mother-In-Law Jokes


I’ve never told a mother-in-law joke or even laughed at one; I’ve never found them funny. My late mother-in-law was a saint.

Pauline Maryann Houser was born the oldest of two daughters in Mena, Arkansas, to Anderson and Kathlyn Houser. She dreamed of becoming a fashion designer. Instead, she was swept off of her feet at 19 by a handsome, WWII B24 gunner seven years her senior. Gordon MCleary was four years and one divorce beyond the war, though he never really left it behind. Their first son was born the year after they married; 13 other children followed over the next 24 years, a total of twelve boys and two girls. Sadly, they outlived two of them. After my own daughter’s critical illness last year, I have no idea how they survived their deaths.

Life was never easy for Mom, but she didn’t let it break her. Dad drank, to fight his demons from the war. With that many kids, the month always outlasted the paycheck. My husband remembers being hungry at the end of the month…leftovers were a new concept when we got married. You can’t really keep a house nice with twelve growing boys, since you never know when you’ll find freshly hunted squirrels or car parts in your kitchen sink. There was no way to referee all of their daily conflicts. I think that it’s nothing short of a miracle that she kept them all in one piece, let alone clothed and fed, until they reached adulthood.

But the most amazing thing about Mom was her disposition. Through it all–the poverty, the child loss, the shenanigans by her kids–she was the sunniest person I’ve ever known. In the 25 years that I knew her, I can count on one hand the number of times that I heard her speak ill of anyone. Those rare occasions were reserved for ex’s who had hurt her kids, her unforgivable sin. No matter what they did, she deeply loved and fiercely defended each of her children. She was the epitome of a loyal, loving mother.

I miss her greatly every day, but especially on Mother’s Day, her birthday, and Christmas. She loved me like a daughter, and I wish I could again tell her how much she meant to me. Mom – you are missed, you are loved, and you made a difference.

“The heart of a mother is a deep abyss, at the bottom of which you always find forgiveness.”  –Samuel Taylor Coleridge


When we need love the most


When our son–our oldest–was a toddler, our local newspaper included a parenting column. I got one of my most valuable parenting lessons there:  when a child is acting the least lovable is when they actually need the most love. It’s so powerful not just because I found it to be utterly true with my kids, but because I’ve also realized that it doesn’t apply only to children.

Children misbehave when they’re tired or bored or frustrated or scared. So do adults. This tip has helped me check my own reactions to others’ behavior on countless occasions. I can’t say it’s always worked, but when I remember it and respond with gentleness and love instead of anger, the outcome is usually dramatically better. Love defuses negative emotions; I’ve come to believe that it can fix virtually anything. In Disney’s Merlin, the title character called love “the most powerful force in the universe.” I believe it.

As I’ve matured in my faith journey, I think I know why love is so powerful:  God is, fundamentally, love. Showing love is a little like having our own super power. And there’s simply no downside to responding in love–it always leaves me feeling better when I do. It has taken me much practice and self-control, especially sometimes as the mother of two teenage girls. But it’s worth it, they’re worth it. And I’m worth it, for my peace and for my relationships.

“There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.”  –George Sand


Light


As the days grow shorter, I’ve begun to notice the lights in the homes on my drive home in the dark. There are so many kinds. The pretty Christmas lights this time of year make me smile. Some outdoor lights accent a home just so, making you feel welcome, even if you don’t know the people who live there. But most lights seem ugly and harsh. Many farm lights, high up on telephone poles, have that yellowish tint of a bug light; they may be ugly, but I grew up in the country and know what a godsend those REA lights are, a shield holding back the blackness over a tiny oasis. The light from a TV is depressing when it’s the only light coming from a house. But the worst are the soul-sucking fluorescents, blue and unnatural.

Most of the lights from the homes I drive by are so ugly, I think, because they are so artificial. We were meant to sleep when it’s dark. It seems like the only legitimate ability we should have to stave off the inevitable night is the light of a fire, which in addition to its gifts of light and warmth, also gives our tribe reason to band together.

I recently read an ex-seafarer say that “a single light bulb on a small ship can be seen from miles away at sea.” It’s a powerful image, yet they weren’t talking about lights at sea at all, but about people:  we can all be lights in the darkness for each other. If we each choose to be a light, the sea will sparkle.

“There are two ways of spreading light:  to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”  –Edith Wharton


Friends


Rachel Platten’s Fight Song popped up recently on my playlist. Music has an ability to retain memories, and this song took me back. A friend introduced it to me at a moment in my life when I was feeling particularly powerless. It would be an overstatement to say that the song gave me the courage to take back control of my life, though I did just that a few months later. However, it’s not an exaggeration to say that this friend and others saved my life (or at least my sanity) during that time.

Friends are an amazing invention; good friends are a godsend. They’re almost like family, but different. They make good times better and hard times tolerable. Knowing that someone cares about what I’m going through has meant simply everything when I’ve struggled to cope. One of the really cool things about friends is that there are so many kinds. There are the ones who are sympathetic, the ones who hold up a mirror and gently force me to face the truth, and the ones who make me stretch and grow. There are the ones who make me laugh and the ones who let me cry, the ones who make me feel good, the ones who teach me and make me think. They all have their place and are special in their own way. The only downside is that they don’t all last. Time and distance and life can separate us…I grieve each loss. Yet I’ve learned that even the losses have their silver lining, because they make room for new friends. With each life change, I’ve forced myself to focus not on the goodbyes, but on the new friends I haven’t yet met. So far, they’ve always been there, all for the negligible effort of reaching out.

“No friendship is an accident.”  –O. Henry, Heart of the West


Centered


My pastor recently shared a story from a mission trip to Guatemala. The group had decided to tell their personal stories of accepting Jesus to the local children in hopes of inspiring them to do the same. As they began sharing their stories with each other, a teenager with them brought instant clarity, saying “I thought I was saved when Jesus died on the cross.” That simple shift of perspective, away from our actions and toward God’s, is profound.

It seems to be human nature to make ourselves the center of the universe, even when we’re specifically focusing on others. It’s easy to point to biology and evolution and the need for focus on individual survival behind this phenomenon. Christianity simply labels it sin…either way, the net effect is the same. For my part, I’ve learned that my relationships suffer when I focus one sided, on me, but they flourish when I manage a healthy balance on both parties. I know this, yet I somehow regularly “forget”. It is a constant battle to push myself out of the center of the universe.

At least for me, I fight this battle the hardest when I feel misunderstood. We all know our underlying intentions, and we’re wounded when others don’t see them as we feel them. I need to continue working on how others perceive me, but I think I can also move the needle by flipping that perspective and working on how I perceive others. I just found this quote from one of my favorite philosophers…it has given me a new personal goal.

“I believe that appreciation is a holy thing–that when we look for what’s best in a person we happen to be with at the moment, we’re doing what God does all the time. So in loving and appreciating our neighbor, we’re participating in something sacred.”  –Fred (“Mr.”) Rogers