The Blessings Beyond Measure of Loving a Handicapped Child

During Advent each year, I pray daily, “Come, Lord Jesus.” Then I watch eagerly for special moments that help me recognize his presence.

Years ago, shortly before Christmas, my then almost four-years-old granddaughter spent the night with me. She had been diagnosed as having Autism at two. I asked God to somehow bless our time together. At that time, most words had no meaning for her. When we spoke to her, she either echoed what we said or resorted to a fast speed repetition of dialogue from a Disney video she liked. She could only express simple requests, mostly in sign language. This evening she set up her tea set on our kitchen table and to my surprise said clearly, “Have a tea party.”

So, she and I took turns pouring imaginary tea and saying, “Thank you” to one another. To break a long silence, I mentioned her little sister being sick. She responded by chattering incomprehensively to her image in the window, but then turned and looked at me and said clearly, “Cats go meow, dogs go woof-woof, cows go moo, and birds go cheep-cheep.”

I was both startled and touched, because she was describing the communication of others without language. And this was the longest understandable speech I had ever heard from her. Then, she yawned and a moment later smiled at me and said, “We go nighty-night.” Then she led me by the hand to our bed. There for the first time ever, she snuggled close and gently patted me saying, “Nighty-night.”

This amount of understandable verbal communication, direct eye contact, and her initiation of a physical show of affection and sustained physical closeness were completely new.

I thought of the Scripture in Second Corinthians where Paul quotes the Lord, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” With silent tears of joy, I recognized the presence of God and His grace within us. And my heart overflowed with love for my wonderful little granddaughter.

Here are the Blessings Beyond Measure that I have experienced in loving a handicapped child: Learning to love unconditionally. Recognizing that life is about becoming the person we alone were created to be. Wanting all others to succeed in their own journey. Experiencing sheer joy over others’ and our own small, but difficult achievements. Learning to live in the present moment. Finding freedom from living for image or others’ opinions. The gift of your own best self being called forth. Learning patience. Developing tenderness toward the vulnerable. Finding the courage to have humane values. Becoming able to see the beauty in those different from ourselves. Seeing with Jesus eyes.

What Will We Remember?

What Will We Remember

what matters in the long run

of fading strength and memory

no longer clear or bright

do we know what counts

out of all the years of effort

and forgotten hopes let go-

what in our confusion lasts

perhaps a smile or tender kiss

the sweet sound of applause-

or windblown waves beneath

the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc

reminding us of heroes lost-

buildings designed and built

sermons preached on love

what we’ve written being read

songs relighting darkened hearts

lessons taught to children

actually changing lives-

matters it if loved by many

or one long love, now gone-

a special gift received or given

small kindnesses of others

a letter written to console

flowers when it’s least expected

laughter experienced as grace-

care-giving for the one you love

the letting go when it’s time

what will be remembered

when we’re on the other side?

Looking For Hope

This poet speaks to my condition!

Dark Matter

We always bet
the world on Hope
although it has always been
a sort of Icarus-being
with its reclaimed wings
and hot-glue foundation.

We lay ourselves at its feet
and stare up into its eyes with love
although we know from its past
that it is likely to leave us
and soar until it crashes.

We spend too many days after that
staring at the ocean imagining we see it
struggling still and calling to us for rescue
even though each of us points
at a different spot and say we were certain,
this time, that we have it right.

Somehow in spite of all the times
we have found Hope’s soggy feathers on the shore,
all the time we have gone out in boats
to where we sure Hope was still afloat
and found nothing, we go back to the sea
and stare at the horizon, pointing first here,

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“Come, Lord Jesus, Come” : Our Advent Prayer

A very special memory of a grandchild opening his heart to Jesus.

Laughter: Carbonated Grace

Many years ago, I began on the first of the four Advent Sundays to pray “Come, Lord Jesus.” Then I watch expectantly for Him to become present in small, but recognizable ways in my heart and life. And most years my heart and mind are actually attentive enough to recognize His coming.

One Christmas Eve, our children and grandchildren were all at our home, surrounded by the friendly reds and greens of Christmas and delicious smells teasing from the kitchen. In one bedroom, a grand-baby snuggled into sleep, while in others whispering parents wrapped and ribbonned Santa secrets. Only Granddad was missing, out doing his traditional Christmas Eve shopping.

As excited older grandchildren were setting out to explore the woods and creek, I was making a clean up sweep through the holiday chaos. And one preschooler, too young for exploring and too old for a nap, went from room to…

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Understanding Trump’s Appeal

This is in response to the Making Sense pod cast by Sam Harris. In “The Key to Trump’s Appeal” Sam says it is his unabashed acceptance of his own human wants and weaknesses without worrying about the fall out for others. He frees people from shame and guilt. Where the Democrat intellectuals come on strong in moral judgement and an obvious sense of superiority.
I do think the obvious superiority complex of intellectuals has always alienated large parts of the population and this explains Trump’s appeal to a segment of the population. I remember the intellectual Democrat presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson. I thought this description funny, but fitting: “Adlai looks at people like they are side dishes he didn’t order.” A lot of times even the use of erudite language intimidates and frustrates the average person.
But not sure Harris’ explanation fits the educated mid-to upper middleclass Trump supporters. For them, it seems to me to be about who gets their hard-earned tax money and the abortion issue gives their fight religious credibility.
I’ve been arguing for many years that both the Republicans and the Democrats are slowly, but surely eliminating the middle class.
And for many hardworking blue collar, lower middle class, who used to have some power through unions, physical violence has always been their last resort in desperation.
Now as a “little old lady” without either sex appeal, the security of accumulated money or the ability to still earn it, and having outlived all my “connections” with power, I am beginning to experience being considered not only invisible, irrelevant, a waste of time and money, but a nuisance. And it is bringing out the Trump in me! Seriously. I am having to battle my own hatred. I have to struggle when in public to suppress my own tendency to violence. I drag myself to the grocery at six in the morning for safety. Recently, when three, twenty something of age, over six feet tall men, not wearing masks came laughing and walking three abreast toward me in the grocery aisle, something snapped. And I lowered my head and picking up speed ran my grocery cart straight at them. They looked astonished as they scattered abruptly when I was inches away. I was on a high for days from it. I felt powerful and thrilled by the shock on their faces. I finally recognized that I had joined the ranks of the violent. But haven’t had much luck regretting it. And after months of dealing with the greed and intimidation techniques of insurance conglomerates after Julian died, I now dig in and do my best to be a thorn in their side without hurting the innocent, powerless workers who have to deal with the public. I really think that other than the bizarrely rich and those at the bottom living off the government, every other economic level is feeling oppressed and basically like they are being screwed by the other economic groups. Trump has legitimized the violence of our anger. And sadly, made the smallest marginalized groups easy targets as outlets for it. And though I reject this intellectually and morally, I understand it, and have to constantly struggle against it myself.


My husband and I were as different as both and when he died we had been married a month short of sixty years. For about twenty years we gave marriage preparation talks about differences in spirituality, values, interests, focus, family influences, and problem solving techniques. One of the first things he always said was, “I don’t understand Eileen at all, but I accept her as she is.” But he also valued my mind and gradually I helped him outgrow his Southern prejudices. He helped me to understand the need to temper ideals with realism. In this life, we can only inch toward the perfect. And we learned to work together well enough to raise five both intelligent and kind kids who are totally different from each other and also from one or both of us. And they are all awesome.

If we do not accept our differences as gifts and learn to understand each other and use our differences for the good of all, America will not ever be GREAT or KIND, never-the-less both. We, BOTH SIDES, are destroying America because we will not let go of our need to win in order to struggle to learn to work together. And the first thing we have to learn is how to dialogue (express and listen) without demonizing each other.

Several decades ago, Julian and I were given the task by our Diocese of creating materials for a six weeks class on Capital Punishment. He was 100 % for capital punishment and I was 100 % against. As we both read through all the materials with statistics and stories of people being executed and later through DNA found to be innocent and the large majority of them being black, Julian began to change his mind.

At the same time a friend of mine’s sister was murdered and decapitated and buried without her head, which was never found. The white man accused of the murder (with plenty of evidence) had already served time for rape and torture once, been released, and attempted the rape/murder of another woman a second time, and again served time, but was paroled. He was obviously mentally defective. He had chains connected to the metal floor of the cabin of his truck. Some years before this, my son and his wife had been giving this man rides to work, not knowing his history. When my son changed jobs, his wife had driven the man to work alone. This issue was now up close and personal for me.

I decided our justice system was defective and I wanted people like this man to be kept on death row. And that DNA and all the groups protesting Capital Punishment would manage to deter the death sentence for innocent people. But the insane wouldn’t be allowed to rape, torture, and kill again.

Most issues just aren’t simple or clear cut. And there are no perfect people, so no perfect systems or solutions. We aren’t God and this isn’t heaven. But our best bet for improving things is recognizing that there are two legitimate sides to issues and to work together to come up with a still imperfect, but better way to handle them at least for our times.

Natural Gifts and Spiritual Gifts

The Martha and Mary story with Martha doing the work to feed everyone, while Mary sat with the men and listened to Jesus has always bothered me. Even though I definitely identify with Mary and see this as a clear indication that Jesus saw women as equal to men, it seemed rather unfair.
Going through some of my old journals, I found somethings that have helped remind me of what I have let myself forget.
There is a big difference in “natural” gifts and “spiritual” gifts. Recognizing our need to listen to God/Jesus/Holy Spirit and developing the habit of doing that is how we become able to seek the kingdom of God first and trust that our physical needs will be provided. This is so counter intuitive, that when I don’t daily seek God, I lose perspective and fall back into fear and trying to fix things myself even after all the miracles I’ve experienced. I seem to have Spiritual Alzheimer’s.
In my early days after a conversion from agnosticism to a personal relationship with Jesus as the human expression of the Love of God, I stayed immersed in the Scriptures and prayer for hours each day and my first response to challenges was prayer and then scriptures came to mind that related to what I was facing.
I’m going to begin sharing some small experiences as appetizers before I share some of the struggles at the beginning of my search for meaning and finding God in Jesus.

I Am Beginning to Learn How to Choose Joy

I’m 83 and a widow living alone. I’ve recently had some health issues and had become depressed. But then I read a post called: “Choose Joy.” So, when I looked out my window at the gray day, I focused on the gold and violet pansies hanging there, savoring their rich colors, the contrast that speaks to me of the marriage of joy and sorrow, remembering their velvet softness, valuing their resilience in cold gray weather. I looked around me in my warm bright study, at a cork board of cards with beautiful pictures of birds from caring friends, a picture of daffodils that are my sign of hope, a picture of Jesus holding a child and laughing, a favorite one of my husband laughing with that sparkle in his eyes, our wedding photo with my family, my loving sons and daughter at various stages of their lives, my brother and his spouse Rick, who treat me like a princess when I get to visit them, me smiling just five years ago in a Cathedral in France. How blessed my life has been. How blessed it still is. The quiet joy of peace surrounds me like a comforter. And a tiny bubble of joy rises within me. Yes, we can choose joy!

A Halloween Riot

I taught first and second grade in a four room Catholic School in a small country town. On Fridays the parish priest came after lunch to teach religion to my class.
Halloween was on Friday my first year there and since we were having a party after the religion class, I conspired with him for me to come bursting in dressed and made up as a witch, screeching scarily. I didn’t think to warn anyone else.
It seems I am a very scary witch. When I slammed open the door doing my witch thing, it set off a panic. Some children dived under their desks, others knocked over desks trying to get into our fully stuffed supply closet, and one or two even climbed up on the windowsills. Every child was screaming at the top of their lungs.
Their older brothers and sisters immediately fought their way out of the other class rooms to rescue their screaming younger siblings. They totally filled the central hall blocking the other teachers (and the principal) in their classrooms.
For a few moments it was total chaos!
Then order was restored, no one was hurt, the children were calmed and consoled. And my class forgave me, because all the teachers called it quits on classes for the day, and we had an extra-long Halloween party.
I wonder if now that they are grown, do the children remember and laugh? Or do they still have nightmares of their teacher turning into a witch?

Choose Joy

Choose joy. Choose it like a child chooses the shoe to put on the right foot, the crayon to paint a sky. Choose it at first consciously, effortfully, pressing against the weight of a world heavy with reasons for sorrow, restless with need for action. Feel the sorrow, take the action, but keep pressing the weight of joy against it all, until it becomes mindless, automated, like gravity pulling the stream down its course; until it becomes an inner law of nature. If Viktor Frankl can exclaim yes, to life, in spite of everything- and what an everything he lived through — then so can any one of us amid the rubble of our plans, so trifling by comparison. Joy is not a function of a life free of friction and frustration, but a function of focus — an inner elevation by the fulcrum of choice. So often, it is a matter of attending to what Hermann Hesse called, as the world was about to come unworlded by its first global war, the little joys; so often, those are the slender threads of which we weave the lifeline that saves us.
Delight in the age-salted man on the street corner waiting for the light to change, his age-salted dog beside him, each inclined toward the other with the angular subtlety of absolute devotion.
Delight in the little girl zooming past you on her little bicycle, this fierce emissary of the future, rainbow tassels waving from her handlebars and a hundred beaded braids spilling from her golden helmet.
Delight in the snail taking an afternoon to traverse the abyssal crack in the sidewalk for the sake of pasturing on a single blade of grass.
Delight in the tiny new leaf, so shy and so shamelessly lush, unfurling from the crooked stem of the parched geranium.
I think often of this verse from Jane Hirshfield’s splendid poem-
So few grains of happiness
measured against all the dark
and still the scales balance.
Yes, except we furnish both the grains and the scales. I alone can weigh the blue of my sky, you of yours.
~Maria Popova

From the Blog: Make Believe Boutique- the Post: around the bend