Tag Archives: love

Living excessively

My daily walk includes a path through a park along the shore of Lake Saint Clair, a lake so large I cannot see the opposite shore. The other day, the sky was overcast and the lake a dull gray, when, all of a sudden, the sun broke through the clouds, shining on the water, and the water shimmered. Where seconds before there had only been dullness, now the water sparkled, and I stopped to look.

Three words popped into my mind: Think BIG thoughts!

Vast is the sky overhead and the water at my feet, inviting me to be expansive, to live in the abundance that our God offers us. It was a mystical moment.

Our culture encourages people to think big thoughts about success, possessions, money—building financial portfolios, expanding business, growing wealth—all with an eye toward more money and bigger things—houses, cars, etc. Excessiveness is a word we tend to associate with wealth and the way wealthy people spend their money—mansions, yachts, elaborate vacations, expensive clothes.

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But what if we focused our big thoughts on building, expanding and growing love, forgiveness, acceptance and compassion. What if we were excessive with kindness, gratitude and mercy? What if we focused our wants on others instead of ourselves? What if we thought big thoughts about goodness, curiosity and generosity? Pie in the sky? Perhaps.

As I walked home from the lake that day, I passed the elementary school near my house and noticed words stenciled on the sidewalk. The school district has a character-building program focused on developing positive habits in the children and more than a dozen sidewalk blocks had words on them.

I remembered back to the beginning of the pandemic when children wrote messages of hope in sidewalk chalk.

We all need daily reminders to develop positive character traits.

What does all this mean for me? What BIG thoughts am I meant to be thinking? What positive character traits am I meant to be developing? What can I do that will help spread the message of Jesus to love, forgive, accept, hope, trust, persevere?

About love

Soon after we met,

Ted asked me out to dinner.

I said “yes;”

he heard “no,”

and forever after he was convinced

that I was not interested in him romantically.

Maybe I wasn’t,

because we became just friends.

Good friends,

travelling companions,

confidants,

soulmates in a way,

but never lovers.

In some ways, I think he knew me better than I knew myself.

He would tell me that I was crushing on someone before I had any idea—

or was it rather that because he suggested a crush, I developed one? Hmm.

He was always generous in his gift-giving

(I remember the day, soon after moving into my new house,

arriving home from work and seeing

a gigantic Tiffany’s box on my patio).

Ted ate at fine restaurants, traveled first-class and generally lived large.

But he never forgot his working-class roots—

he claimed to be the first man in his family to wear a tie to work

(having been a lawyer before he opened his bookstore).

He supported numerous non-profits and schools, usually requesting anonymity.

“Don’t let your right hand…”

Ted was a fan of all things Hitchcock.

One time, we met up in San Francisco to recapture the scenes in Vertigo.

We visited all the sights and stayed at the hotel in the movie.

He thought because I am a Madeline,

I should pose for the Madeline shots

(like pretending I was going to jump into the water beneath the Golden Gate Bridge).

He would have been happy if I wore a blond wig for the picture,

but I drew the line.

He wanted me to move to southern Oregon

and work with him in his bookstore.

If that was a test, I failed.

Oregon?

Too far (three flights each way).

Still, we talked several times a week

until he got esophageal cancer,

and then we talked several times a day

until he had to get a trach

and talking was too difficult for him.

Then just I talked.

We only argued once in the thirty-two years I knew him.

Mostly, he made me laugh and helped me enjoy life.

He trusted me, and he loved me.

I loved him, too,

and I miss him every day.

Ode to Sadie

Belgium’s greatest gift to the world,

I used to think,

was chocolate,

rich and sweet,

an explosion of flavor

melting on my tongue.

And then I met Sadie,

a Belgian Malinois,

as sweet as chocolate and so much more.

She was bred to herd sheep,

but with no sheep in sight,

she now shepherds me,

walking by my side,

in case I think to wander,

keeping me line and in sight,

making sure I am safe.

Smart, strong, fearless, loyal,

lots of energy and anxious to play,

risking everything for a mid-air catch,

heedless of any danger,

running as fast as the wind.

So much fun to watch,

as I pop another

Belgium chocolate into my mouth.

Be seen and heard

Shh.

Be quiet.

Don’t speak.

Be seen and not heard.

Make yourself small.

Cower in the corner.

Become invisible.

Keep the little girl inside you little.

This is my beloved Son; listen to him, God said of Jesus.

Did God say of me, This is my beloved daughter; listen to her?

But who can hear me when I am being quiet?

How can you listen to me when I am not speaking?

If I remain tucked in the corner, trying to be invisible,

how can I spread God’s message of love and forgiveness?

God whispers to me.

Think big thoughts.

Speak up.

Make yourself seen and heard.

I can be

I can be with people others say they can’t,

those facing disease,

those who are dying

and those left behind,

lost in their loss.

I can be with people who are in prison

and those imprisoned by fear and shame.

I can be with those who live at the margins of society

because of disability or addiction or poverty,

those many others try to avoid

or may not even notice.

And I can be with people who do not speak my language

or understand my customs,

those who have left behind all that is familiar to start a new life,

struggling to gain a foothold.

I can also be with those

who have great financial wealth,

and see beyond their trappings to notice a

spiritual poverty so profound

they risk being smothered by their possessions.

I am not always comfortable

with the vulnerability I see

and saddened by the suffering, and yet

I can be

with them.

Why is it I have spent my life being with people

who are seeking to be seen and heard and accepted and loved?

Maybe God whispered in my ear when I was still a child,

“I love them all.”

Set an intention

Make room for

more light in your life and

more joy in your heart.

Set an intention for

peace and love to flourish

and chaos and fear to diminish.

Let generosity grow and scarcity shrink.

Count how many times a day

you say thank you or

offer a compliment.

Notice the abundance in your life and

act for those who have less.

Pray for those in your family or neighborhood

who face challenges and are struggling, and

those around the world who face tyrants.

Remember those who are grieving.

Reach out to those who are lonely or lost.

Every act of kindness ripples out into the world and

then comes back to us,

bridging the space between us and

reminding us that we are one.

Thinking of love

Late last year, someone I had known in college, but hadn’t seen in more than twenty years, messaged me. We got together for coffee, and he updated on people I had known in college.

“I always thought of him as the one who got away,” I said when we got around to this one guy I had really liked but was too scared to do anything about.

I do think of him as the one who got away, but I could not believe I had actually said it out loud. Vulnerability is not my strong suit, so this verbal admission surprised me.

Later that same week, I heard a radio show about regret, and I recalled that conversation. I regret that I let my fears determine my future.

I started to think of other times when I had closed the door on the possibility of relationship. I remembered a man I had met at the end of my summer semester in Spain. He was an architect in Algericas, and I was about to leave the country. I said I would write when I got home, but I didn’t. To what end?

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Similarly, the guy in upstate New York I had met on a weekend trip to Ithaca. He wrote me beautiful love letters and even drove the 200 miles to see me several times. But I was not going to move to New York, and he had no desire to move to Pennsylvania, so what was the point of pursuing a relationship?

Geographically undesirable, I thought both times.

Looking back, I can see that pragmatism was the coverup for my fear.

Last week, I watched the movie Frozen (not for the first time, but the first time in several years).

My mom died last June, and throughout the final months of her life, I had advised my sisters (and told myself) to let it go when people said things that were critical of the care we were giving my mom.

I must have said let it go hundreds of times in those last six months of my mom’s life.

After my mom died and people continued to express their opinions about what we should have or could have done to extend my mom’s life (even though she was 95 years old and had major health issues), I suggested to my sisters that we get Elsa t-shirts that said let it go.

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I decided to watch Frozen again if for no other reason than to see Elsa letting go.

The line that caught my attention this time, though, was only an act of true love will thaw a frozen heart.

I wondered if my heart is frozen. Had all those times when I had said “no” to the possibility of love frozen my heart? Had shutting down on potential closed me to opportunity?

What can I learn from my past decisions and regrets?  How do I move past fear to freedom? How do I let go and become open to love?

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