Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Love with Wrinkles
I was in a bit of a funk on Saturday. I'm coming up on one of those "milestone birthdays" in a few months, and it's bugging me more than I thought it would.
Truthfully - I don't mind being older. I am grateful for the wisdom I've gained through the years, and I'm pretty happy with who I've become.
I do, however, mind looking older. The smile lines around my eyes are getting dangerously close to the ones around the corners of my mouth, and my body is not as responsive to my attempts to get in better shape as it once was.
That's what was bugging me Saturday. And on top of it all, I was mad that it bothered me so much - because I understand that there are LOTS of things that are more important.
So - as I was praying before bed on Saturday night, I asked my Heavenly Father to help me put things in perspective so that it wouldn't be such a big deal. I also asked for help seeing myself as He sees me.
On Sunday morning, I was getting all of the kiddos ready for church. I changed Kate's diaper and then let her run around a bit before putting on her dress. As I watched her move around, I marveled at the little muscles in her back. I, once again, was stunned by her beautiful blue eyes and dark lashes. As I admired the beauty of this little daughter of mine, that quiet voice in my heart and mind that I have come to know throughout the years whispered, "She's JUST like you." So I looked closer. Her cheeks, her smile, the shape of her eyes - she looks just like I did at her age. Not only that, but she acts just like me.
As I figuratively stepped back and thought a bit, I wondered if this was how my Heavenly Father feels when He watches me. Does He ever say, "Wow. Look at how her eyes crinkle up when she smiles!" Does He love to hear me sing? Is He so proud of me when I am kind? Does He take note of the ways I am like Him? In that moment I felt thoroughly loved, and that lesson would have been enough.
But - there was more in store for me. As I sat in church with my family, still feeling my hug from heaven, I listened as the speaker shared a quote from CS Lewis:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
I let this sink deep for a moment and thought about how often I have ideas of things I want to do to show other people that I care: sometimes just a hug, or a letter, or a batch of cookies. I also thought about how often I hold back because I don't want the other person to feel weird or awkward if I'm "too friendly." I thought about Camilla Kimball's advice to "never suppress a generous thought", and decided that I'm done with holding back. Yeah - some people are going to think I'm weird, but I think I'm ok with that. I'll just be the weird friendly lady with wrinkly eyes. No problem.
After church, I was home with my family, still feeling wonderful from the morning's epiphanies, when I got a chance to immediately apply these ideas.
I'm still kind of stunned that this actually happened, but there was a knock on our door about 30 minutes after we got home. When my son opened the door, I saw a young teenage girl we had never seen before, who I figured was probably selling something door to door for a sports team or something. When my husband and I came to the door, she had tears in her eyes and said, "I need help."
We invited her in, and she told us that she was lost and her feet hurt. She had no shoes on. She wanted a ride to her friend's house. When she began dodging my questions about her parents, I knew something was wrong and invited her into the study to talk with me privately. I asked her if there was a reason she did not want to go home, and she began to cry. Remembering my new resolution, I took that sweet girl in my arms and I hugged her.
I got her some water and some lunch and bandaged her blistered feet. It was hot outside and she had been walking barefoot. As we talked, she began to share things with me. Long story short, she had run away from her parents after a disagreement and become lost. She was afraid they were going to be angry with her. Because of my educational background and some experiences I've had, I suspected that she was struggling with a mental health condition and asked a few questions about that. She confirmed my suspicions, and we talked pretty openly about it. Someone that I am close to struggles with the same condition, and I was familiar with the feelings and thought patterns she was experiencing.
A couple of hours later, she was calm and ready to go home. My boys found out that it had been her birthday the day before, and loaded her up with stuffed animals and a pair of flip flops to wear home. We were able to reunite her with her parents in the presence of a very kind local sheriff, who would make sure that all was well at home when she returned.
After she left, I thought about this experience - a lot. What are the chances that she would come to our door? She came to a home where her mental and emotional condition was understood, on the very day that I had resolved to reach out and love others more. I could feel the love that God had for her, and marveled at how she had been watched over and given such a soft place to land. I was grateful at getting to play a part in the miracle. Most of all, by witnessing with my own eyes how much He loved her, I realized once again how much He loves me.
So - if I happen to spontaneously hug you next time I see you, don't think I'm too weird, ok? I'm just sharing the love.