Saturday, July 25, 2009

All We Need Is Love...

We all want to be loved, don’t we? But what is this thing called love?

When I think of love, so many things encompass my mind. If you asked 20 people to define love, you may get 20 different answers. Perhaps many of us don’t really understand this thing called love – even though we desire it, yearn for it and make so many choices in the pursuit of it.

If you have never felt love, seen love, given love – you are confused by those of us who spend so much time thinking about it. Because true love, deep love, passionate love - it changes you. It messes you up. In a quote from one of my favorite movies “Moonstruck”, it “ruins everything”.

Love is an emotion, a feeling, an action, a thought, a deed. It can be associated with most anything one might do on this earth. An act that appears to one person as so simple, so minute they give it little thought, can be considered one of the deepest examples of love to another.

The scripture has some things to say about love...Love is patient, love is kind, it is not quick to anger, love endures all. Such nice descriptions, such good things. But another scripture says that God is love, and that He first loved us and sent His son to die for us…. the crucifixion. Something that those of us who call upon the name of Jesus look at as the greatest example of love ever - was violent and ugly. I relate to both sides of this coin. It is the perplexity of this thing called love, on the one hand so gentle, so beautiful, and the next moment it brings a grief that can rip your heart in two.

There are times when in the loving of one person, we hurt another. Not long after Bill and I got married, my mom came to live with us. She could no longer live on her own and we welcomed her into our home. When she came to live with us we had a great deal going on. First, Bill and I were newly married. Second, I had my own business, plus a part time job. And last but not least, my youngest Anna, who was about 14 at the time, was going through a very dark period. She refused to go to school, didn’t talk (except to say “I don’t know” at evey question posed to her) and was “sulkingly” trying to adjust to a divorced and remarried mom.

The care of my mom, my business, and my daughter required a great deal of me and I had to make choices. I loved very deeply all those in this “triangle” - my mom, my partner in the business who was also my friend and my baby girl. But I knew the drowning of me would help no one and I had to choose where my attentions would lie. I chose Anna. In choosing to focus on her, I had to kick my mom out and leave the business behind. Hurting my mom and partner in the process, but I believe saving Anna’s life. And I have no doubt her life was in the balance. Thankfully, years later, Anna safely grown, I got another chance to care for my mom and reunite with my partner and friend. Love covers a multitude of sins and triumphs over all.

Where there is love, there is certainly joy, but, as mentioned before, this same love can bring raging pain and sorrow. Because when we love, we hurt. If we did not love, most likely much of the hurt would not come, but then, neither would the joy. So, this love I speak of is a choice. If we choose to open our heart to love and be loved, we also choose to open our heart to pain and sorrow.

A good example of this “schizophrenia” of love happened when Bill and I were dating. Soon after we began our relationship, I found myself in love with him, truly in love for the first time at 40 years old. The previous year, I divorced after being married 25 years, having never experienced the things I was with Bill. I was so unfamiliar with this new condition, it put me in somewhat of a panic and I was unsure what was happening to me. But as a great friendship grew into something “other than”, leaving the platonic behind and moving into courtship, I was thrilled with the wonder of being “in love”. With it, came the sense of “need” for this other person in my life. The fact was, yes, if I had to, I could live without this person, but I did not WANT TO. Having him in my life added, completed, complimented, challenged. I allowed myself to NEED him. The coolest thing…he loved me back. I was head over heels and he was too – we both jumped in and allowed this new found love to envelope us.

But, there were times when we would be together, that this overwhelming sadness would come upon me. I would be in his arms, and would begin to weep with sorrow, heaving with tears. I became filled with a sadness that did not seem to fit with this wonderful joy I had. It was the bitter and the sweet…I was so joyful that this love had come my way, but so bitter and saddened that I had lived so long without it. I had never known fully what I was missing.

Poor Bill. A perfectly good make out time interrupted by these bursts of tears. I am sure it perplexed him as much as it did me, because when these times of sorrow would come, he would ask no questions, gently lay my head on his shoulder, let me cry and with his hand on my head, softly pray in tongues over me till the tears stopped. And little by little, I was cleansed of my sorrow, able to bask in the safety of his love.

I know there are those who guard their heart from loving too deeply, afraid of hurt and pain. But of all the love I have given and all of the love I have received, the best love has always been the one given in abandon, with the whole heart. It’s the love that bares ones soul and leaves you “out there - to’ up draws” and all, nothing hidden; extreme. Have I gotten hurt? Damn right, more times than I can count. But this one thing about love I know for sure, I have never been sorry that I have given it, but regret has come when I have withheld it.

The pain of love, the joy of love. It is a mystery how the two can reside as one, but I know I can’t live without the joy of it, so for that joy I will gladly risk the pain.

Watching Big Brother...

Oh, it’s not the kind of “big brother” that phrase has come to be associated with, it’s an actual big brother...mine, and his name is Ed. Bill and I just spent a few days with him and his family in Door County, Wisconsin.

Door County is a lovely place located on the peninsula of Wisconsin. Green Bay on one side, Lake Michigan on the other...just beautiful. They rent
a cottage on the Green Bay side and that is where we stayed. Egg Harbor to be exact. It’s a lovely little town full of craft shops, restaurants, art galleries and an array of small businesses. Not a McDonalds in sight!

Ed and his wife DeeAnn have been going up there every year for the past 16 years (they started before their daughter Ellie was born; she is 10). Many family members and friends have joined them over the years. They love it up there - including Ellie - which is pretty cool I think for a 10 year old. They have favorite restaurants, activities and places that they go every year for the week they stay. They have several “traditions” of must d
o things...even Ellie. One of hers involves “Blue Moon” ice cream.

We had a great time. It was fun sharing with them a place they enjoy so much. The cottage has a gorgeous view of the sunset, the water was clear and the setting around us serene. We went to "Al Johnson's" restaurant and saw goats on the roof and ate swedish pancakes, we ate cherry pie at "Sweetie Pies", which even my husband (who is not a fruit pie fan) had to admit was the best cherry pie he ever had. We took a ferry (one of my favorite things on this earth to do) to Washington Island and explored there where I held an ostrich egg and enjoyed art made by locals. But those
things are not what impressed me the most...what I take with me from my time in Door County was my brother Ed...more accurately, my brother the father...this is the memory that stays with me.

Perhaps it is becaus
e during our visit Ed and I chatted about our dad and childhood. We shared memories of growing up and recounted some classic stories about my dad. Whatever the reason, my heart is full of my brother the father and I feel it’s a story worth telling.

Growing up, my brother Ed was not known for his patience or calmness. He was known to yell a bit and had quite a temper...we all did really. He tormented me as a child with his teasing, but he would also come to my defense when threatened by the neighborhood kids. Usual stuff with minute screaming at the top of your lungs to each other, but the next minute helping to pick you up if you fall.

A little about my brother Ed today...he’s a kind man with a big heart that is changing the world one soul at a time...he leads and teaches by example. Some things that make him happy are sitting in a rocking chair, watching Cubs games, playing golf and spending time with family.

I watch Ed today with his family, and he is patient, a great teacher, thoughtful and takes his role as husband and father seriously. This doesn’t surprise me, since I have seen him with my kids and he is great. Years ago, when my kids were little and Ed was single, we would visit for weekends. His place was a couple hours away, near Chicago, and the weekend would be such a wonderful break from our everyday life. His first home there was an apartment, then later he built a house. We were always welcomed to both with open arms. He thought ahead and had the fridge stocked with food. There were always clean sheets and a comfy place to sleep. He
always made us feel at home and treated us to dinners, br
eakfasts and was a refuge. He took an interest in my kids and was patient and loving to them and they were never a bother. His focus was always to teach them something with most activities. He helped make it fun to learn and was a really cool uncle. It was never a chore for them to go visit him, they always looked forward to it. He even let my son Job live with him and his family when Job finished high school so he could attend a culinary school near where Ed lived. He provided a home, resources and guidance to
my son...which I am sure was not always easy...Job was a handful at that time in his life. Bu
t he did not give up on him even when Job quit school and his investment in him is evident today...Job later finished school (on his own dime) and is now working as a chef. He got married and has 2 kids of his own and is a wonderful man and father who has never forgotten what Ed did for him.

I think what impresses me ab
out my brother’s fathering is that much of what he does was not done for him. Now, I am not slamming my dad...I long ago made peace with what he was and what he wasn’t and know that he loved us very much. My dad fathered better than he got for sure. I make note of it because it is so awesome to me when we rise above what we did not have to make something wonderful, instead of passing on to another generation our mess. And that’s how I see Ed. He took what my dad did do and expanded it, improved it, added to it.

One of my favorite Ed and dad stories happened over 30 years ago in my home, after I was married and had 2 of my 3 kids. Ed was a young man still living with our parents...probably college age and home for the summer. My then husband and I owned our own home but knew very little of repairs and
upkeep. Our toilet was stopped up and we had no money to call a plumber. My dad was an electrician by trade, but knew some about plumbing, so he came to the rescue (one of many times) and brought my brother Ed along with him. Ed, my dad and my first husband got to work. They unseated the toilet and removed it from the floor. Low and behold, the problem was immediately visible. One of my delightful children (who were about 3 and 5 at the time) had decided to flush a canning jar lid down the toilet. It fit perfectly over the opening to the pipe and covered it completely. So, they removed the obstruction and went about the task of removing the old wax ring seal and placing a new one. This can be a pretty yucky job. The wax is gooey and fits around an opening that waste passes through...get the picture? But the three men pushed on and I went in to check on them just as they were finishing. My dad, much like Ed, liked to turn activities into learning opportunities. So as they surveyed their work, sewage soaked canning jar lid and old wax ring about them, my dad turned to Ed and said “Well, some day when you own your own home and you need to fix a toilet, now you’ll know what to do”. Ed looked up at him and said “Yup; I’m gonna call a plumber!”

He is an involved and engaged father. He makes Ellie warm chocolate milk morning and evening. He takes turns putting her to bed and reading to her. He allows her to follow her dream of being an Olympic ice skater...even after a couple of broken bones. She is a priority
for him and I know he would do anything to keep her safe and cared for. And if things were out of his control, he would willingly call upon God’s power to intervene.

He speaks to Ellie as God would; loving, kind, encouraging, believing that she can do and be anything her heart desires, a rebuke when needed, but unconditional love and acceptance always. One of the most powerful things I took note of...he is there for her and he is consistent. He says only what he intends to do and does what he says. So, there is security in her life - and any woman will tell you that feeling secure is in the top 5 “things we want to have” list. The way he treats her is an example of how her husband should treat her...and from what I have seen her husband “to be” will have some big shoes to fill. My prayer is that she will never settle for anything less.