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loveandpatientpartialheartcbl2014

(c) 2014 Christiana Lambert

For too long I have been silent. No more. My heart hurts for the discourse I read, and then further when I hear that some in our country are carrying out acts of hatred toward those who are considered the Other. For my friends who believe justice has been served in this election and that the losers on this side of history should just grow up and accept what has happened, I want them to understand that many people are afraid that is now OK to be judged (and punished) for how they look, or who they love. I’m not got going to grow out of my concern for the Other—and, for me, it is specifically because of what I’ve learned from others of faith and from the Bible. My God is a God of love and my faith compels me to strive to be a person of love—no matter what.

We all pick and choose what we quote from the Bible. I know this is considered a crazy and possibly heretical thought by many Christ-followers, but as a literature major, I can tell you I always read for depth and meaning in everything I read. While I may not know the Greek and Hebrew behind the original creation of the passages we know today, nor do I know all the history surrounding the events in the books of the Bible, I most certainly know to recognize when there are conflicting passages in the Great Book. I must prayerfully consider and reconcile the differences.

For me, I choose to pick the verses where Jesus said the greatest commandments were to love the Lord and God with all your soul and your strength and your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. In his exchange in Luke 10 with the expert of the law who correctly answered that those were the most important laws, the man then asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds by starting out with, “A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho . . . ”

He launches into the parable of the Good Samaritan–and I’m pretty certain that Samaritans were on some sort of registry there in those days. Who was the hero of that story? The outsider–and the man who showed love. What was Jesus telling us here? That love is love. And to love everyone.

There’s that “love everyone” thing again–which seems really, really hard to do these days.

I’m going to try to love the people who have made statements I consider unconscionable—not because my mean-spirited human heart wants to do so, but because my God asks me to love all my neighbors. We can disagree on how we approach the laws of this country, but unless the rhetoric includes language of kindness and empathy, I want others to know that I won’t stand for it. These days it’s all the rage to be snarky but it isn’t very Christian. And yet that’s just what we Christians are showing the world.

Who is my neighbor? You all are.

 

 

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(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

To my life partner Sherman on our 27th anniversary: life is a puzzle—both the big pieces and the small pieces. So often it’s hard to figure out which direction to turn the pieces to make everything fit. What I don’t question is that turning to you was the piece that fit right from the start.

Though we are no longer those starry-eyed twenty-somethings who thought that just to be by each other’s side would change the bad to good, 27 years older and wiser, we still know that being together through the bad is always good.

The good is knowing that come what may we are a team—you have my back and I have yours—including those times when we lie together at night back-to-back, not because we are mad at one another but because your back against mine and mine against yours soothes the aches brought on by lives lived in motion—together and apart. Trekking mountain paths, gliding down snowy white slopes, walking our excitable dogs—we take to trails for renewal, discovery, and space to converse without so much intrusion from the everyday in our lives.

But another big piece of our lives is the constant welcome intrusion of laughter—both when appropriate and when not so appropriate. Even now I know you are laughing because I am not respecting the metaphor at all. Are you the puzzle piece? Is life together full of puzzle pieces? Is Life itself the puzzle? Can we be both puzzle pieces and the people who put together the puzzle?

I can’t even begin to puzzle out where this puzzle metaphor is going, but know that there is no puzzle to me about your being the one for me.

Got that? If anyone can get that, it will be you–because you are the one who gets the me that puzzles everyone else.

(c) 2014 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2014 Christiana Lambert

How many of us have attended weddings where we listened to Bible verses read from 1 Corinthians 13? The passage that begins with “Love is patient and kind” introduces one of the most detailed treatises on love in the Bible. The Apostle Paul did not set out to address the love between partners or even friends or family, but instead spoke of agape love—which is divine love of and from God. Still, many of us think of these verses when we think of romantic love and commitment. These words model godly love as an example of how to behave toward all people whom we love, yet we, who are human, most need them to remember how to treat the most constant person in our lives—and thus the frequent reminder at wedding ceremonies.

Why is the person who is most precious to us—and the one who puts up with our failings so often—the one we find so hard to treat with the respect and love he or she deserves?

Everyday life intrudes upon the drug-like euphoria we feel when first falling in love. When we begin to know someone, we can’t imagine acting self-seeking or rude to them. That person is a perfect fit for us. And yet no one really is a perfect fit—it’s more a question of what we can live with or live without and what we must have in order to continue together happily enough.

In other words, if love is a drug, what benefits must a person receive and what side effects are too much? For example, look at stimulant medications used to treat AD/HD—medications that are often abused illegally. Contrary to popular beliefs, when properly prescribed, these medications aren’t supposed to give a high or create a life filled with peaks and valleys. Too much stimulant can leave a person feeling anxious and irritable even if it might give the focus to pull all-nighters. The appropriate dose and type of medication for the AD/HD patient is the one that brings the person into the moment and that provides a sense of calm as well as confidence that the person can find balance in life and manage necessary matters in his or her life, including relationships with others.

Some love seems more like the stimulants abused just to feel the highs—even when the lows are simply caused by a mismatch in the needs of the individuals in a relationship.

When I fell in love that first time, I couldn’t imagine coming down from that high. But when the lows came, I didn’t want to recognize just how much I was trying to force what we had just to get back to the highs. And the more I forced, the less my own love acted like that 1-Corinthians-13 love, even as I tried to let those words be my guide. All I wanted was more time with him, but what he needed was time for sleep, sports, schoolwork, and helping others. Our love was like too much stimulant—incredibly high and energetic until it became irritating and fragile. Despite his desire to live out a 1-Corinthians-13 love, he could not do so with me any more than I could with him—trying harder to follow these tenets would not make it happen. The side effects of our drug of love were too numerous and too damaging to continue together.

On the other hand, when we’re compatible with someone, it’s not as hard to have a 1-Corinthian-13 type of love—assuming we believe in and strive to follow those words. This is what I have found with Sherman, my husband of 26 years. Yes, maintaining a day-to-day love long term still has some challenges, but it is not all-day-and-all-night difficult. With a lasting love, much of it happens easily because we love who they are—with us and away from us. We can be in the moment together and confident that who we are together will be good and will also allow us each to be the individuals we are. For all their eccentricities, we love more of them than we do not. As Sherman likes to say, “You marry the strangest people.” To which I always respond, “You certainly do.”

Though our wedding ceremony did not include reading the 1 Corinthians 13 passage, we see those words as an explanation for how to live out the passages we did choose from John 15 and 1 John 4, including the following:

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:11

If love is at all like a drug, then it’s more like a medication prescribed by God, the healer—don’t settle for one bought from a street dealer. Love is patient and kind—and that also applies to loving ourselves enough to have the patience to wait for a 1-Corinthians-13 love.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
John 3:16-17, NIV

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

The week before I got sick, I was just too busy to write. My brother Scott was coming with his family: his wife Lori, his son and his wife, and another son’s children (four boys eight and under!) whom Scott and Lori are raising. To say that we had a lot of preparation to do before Thanksgiving was an understatement— we have enough trouble keeping the house orderly enough to be guest-friendly for adults, let alone for children.

Nonetheless, when all the busyness was said and done, we were really thankful to see our relatives for Thanksgiving. Scott and Lori have taken on the everyday care of these boys and do a great job with them despite the challenges of raising such young children when they themselves are in their fifth decades.

During the week of their visit to our house, we also wanted to bring the family to see our daughter who had to cut out early from her college break to go back to work Black Friday—oh, let’s just call it Black Thanksgiving since she had to start working at 5:00 p.m. that day. Plus, the boys were quite excited to visit her at her workplace, which is still a magical place for them. So it was that we all found ourselves dodging shopping carts at ToysRUs on the real Black Friday—and four little boys found themselves enjoying the outing even if the adults in the party were a little less excited.

Afterwards we all went out for a meal—no small task with eight adults and four boys. Since the weather was unseasonably warm, next we were able to take a post-dinner stroll through the nearby pedestrian mall, decorated with its twinkling holiday lights.

That’s when we saw him, standing on his soapbox outside a bar. His sign read: You deserve to go to Hell.

I wanted to call out to him, “Exactly—we all do. That’s why Jesus came—to take away all our sins.”

However, as Lori said later, it’s often pointless to get into a debate with people who think that way. Still, there he was talking deep into his belief that he had to scare people to Jesus—that the people inside drinking on a Friday night were obviously sinners who were just plain lost. Of course the smokers who came outside from the bar were having a good time needling him, unaware that they really did need Jesus’ love—for all their sins. But they weren’t hearing anything about love. In college towns, evangelists like this man tend to focus on sins surrounding sex and drunkenness, but not on sins about treating others unkindly.

In the Bible, who is most often at the receiving end of Jesus’ angry outbursts? The uptight “rules people” who do not show kindness in their dealings with people. Yes, Jesus hung out with the sinners—maybe also outside the watering holes of the day—but based on everything else I’ve read about Him, I have to believe He showed them why they should want to change through giving his love.

As our large family group walked by on our way elsewhere, the man shouted out and pointed at one of the children saying, “You see that young child there—he’s as innocent as the day he was born.”

Please don’t take this the wrong way, but though my sister-in-law loves and serves God, she muttered, “You don’t know him.” This is not because this child or any other of the children “deserves to go to Hell” on his own merits—it is because we are all born wanting to do our own thing versus wanting to do God’s—or other authority figures’—things.

It’s not just guys drinking at a bar or men and women looking for a quick hook-up. It’s also the three-year-old who throws the fit because he isn’t in the mood for bed yet or the four-year-old who keeps touching everything he has been told not to touch or the five-year-old “innocent” child who would just rather not do what his family (that old “honor your mother or father” thing—or honor those who are raising you) asks him to do or the eight-year-old who pulls out the game he was told to put away. But it’s also you and I when we speed up to cut off other drivers or when we speak rudely to customer service people.

There are so many sins—big and little—we all do throughout our lives. I’m sinning by not even wanting to debate this man who loves God because I don’t seem to think God is big enough to make it a worthwhile conversation. Even when we’re mostly doing the right things in God’s eyes, there are still sins we commit. To ignore God’s will—even if His will is simply for us to respect people, both those we love and those whose actions have not earned our respect—is to deserve to go to Hell.

For mere humans it is impossible ever to deserve to go to Heaven—and that’s why God gave us Jesus. I personally can’t say if those guys from the bar or the street preacher or those precious (though still imperfect) children nor you nor I will ever make it to Heaven, but it’s also not up to me to say. All know is sometimes we don’t get what we deserve and sometimes we get way more than we deserve—and when it comes to Heaven and Hell, that’s called mercy—the mercy that comes through Christ.

Not a one of us walking by the sign-hoisting man deserved perfect love, not even the three-year-old, and, yet, I believe Jesus gives it to us anyway. Because of that kind of love, people do really tough things—such as raising someone else’s children or walking away when someone’s behavior deserves a wrathful response or even by making a decision to treat their bodies more like the temples God created. You can wave your signs in the air and condemn everyone who walks by but I choose to see the Christ within.

This Thanksgiving I was very much grateful for good times with family and friends—but even more grateful for the kind of mercy Jesus bought for me for which I am not prepared and that which I most definitely do not deserve.

Thank God—really.


What is home anyway but a place that houses your people and/or the best of your memories?

But even when a home is filled with love and good intentions, sometimes finding peace in the moment remains so elusive.

How strange that we are just placed (born) into these family units with one another and, yet, our differences and our similarities make it so hard for us to get along day in and day out over the years. Familiarity brings challenges, even when we want to maintain that peace.

Our pasts together and personality quirks are so complicated. And then there are the circumstances into which we are born, ranging from simple birth order factors to the family’s mood at the time of our arrival. During hard times, war, illness, or following death, children still arrive. Life in a family is not easy, even in the best of times, but it’s all that any of us knows in our early years. But with any luck, we will continue to know family life throughout all our years, regardless of the challenges it brings us.

Despite my growing up with only my parents and one brother, I come from a large extended family. My past is filled from memories of Thanksgivings and Christmases and summer visits to my grandparents’ home—a home where all my aunts and uncles and cousins would gather in noisy groups—and in my dreams I still return to that mythical home where I gather once more with those people who were so important to who I am and who I became. Those sorts of dreams come also to my relatives in their sleep. This sense of home is definitely with us when we gather in other places, but we have never truly dreamed we could return to the house that cradled us and shaped us so.

That is we thought we could never return . . . until my cousin and her husband realized the dream of buying back the house that had passed from our family over 30 years ago.

After over a year of a whole lot of elbow grease, blood, sweat, tears, and money, the house is again the home of our dreams. When my cousin called us home to our recent Christmas in July reunion, the house—and our ability to gather together in it—was a present like no other.

I would love to tell you that the dream realized was all twinkly lights and laughter and hugs and songs sung in perfect harmony and moments captured in picture perfect clarity. It was all that and more, and, yet, as in any family, sour notes remain: sibling discord, marriages dissolved, children who won’t sleep, favoritism, regrets, and disagreements over shared history. What’s past is not often past.

The truth is I did leave swathed in a feeling not unlike the sunshine that streamed through the large windows or the peacefulness that came to me as I took in the bucolic views from those windows. I chose to feel the love—which is real and huge and something I know not everyone gets to feel in this life—and also chose to push away the cobwebs that lurked in the dark corners because I realize I am lucky enough that those cobwebs are only a small part of this thing called family in my life.

And, yet, my own home is also a microcosm of that larger family home. The love here is real and huge and something not everyone gets to experience. But sometimes the reality of who we are together and alone is simply too hard to bear. We forget that together we are the protection for one another from what happens outside our homes and instead project what others have done to us on those who love us most. And despite our best intentions, so often we cannot figure out how to be ourselves without hurting one another. In those moments our home becomes just another house.

The real dream of my grandparents’ house or my house or of any house will be that the house can be the peaceful space we can call home: that feeling that comes in those moments when family members forget or minimize any differences and just give into the love that binds us together.

Blest be the ties that bind our hearts and bring about fellowship of kindred minds—and remind us just why peace in our families—no matter how imperfect the peace or the family—is what really makes a house a home.

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert Furgus and Sam take their first ride in the new(er) 4Runner.

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert
Furgus and Sam take their first ride in the new(er) 4Runner.

The things you do for love . . . sometimes extend into agreeing to try things you swore you’d never try.

For the record, I have rarely liked the cars my husband Sherman likes. But then again, I’m not really a big fan of driving anyway. I was the kid who got her license because she wanted to go places, not because she wanted to drive. Driving was a means to an end.

Plus, since I come from a flat, small town, driving in the city or the mountains is way different than where I began. However, I have lived here longer than I lived where I lived while growing up—where I didn’t really drive for too long before I left. Perhaps it’s time for me to grow up and into the driving reality of where I have been driving most of my life.

But is my brain ready to learn how to drive a stick shift at this age??!!

Well, for my husband I pledged I would do so—which really shocked him after my initial (mostly failing) test drive in a public transit parking lot.

The thing is, I’m not intuitively natural with manual activities. At least I tend to do better with foot activities—although that wasn’t exactly the case with the clutch the first time. Perhaps if I think of it as dancing?

Sadly, listening and doing are probably not going to be my best way to start learning anything. But, dork that I am, I can learn better having read and watched and memorized instructions. Guess who will have to do some research?

Still, I really, really don’t want to be going through all this with an audience. I am longing for those remote country roads and almost deserted residential streets where I first practiced driving. However, with the gas mileage on this vehicle, I’m not going to want to take long road trips with it! No, this is my husband’s car for plowing the parking lot or for taking his bicycle to go on foothills’ climbs or for transporting the dogs—safely behind the gate—for runs, walks, and hikes.

Sherman has been searching for replacement Toyota 4Runners for weeks now while waiting for his previous 4Runner to be sold. Although he’s looked at a few manual cars, I’ve been telling him that learning to drive a stick shift car now wasn’t really how I planned to try to prevent Alzheimer’s by expanding my brain’s activities.

And yet, it really is learning those things that are hard for us that can have impact on our brain health as we age.

So when Sherman found a beautiful 4Runner in the right price range that was not an automatic, I still agreed to look at it.

Am I resistant to this change? Very. But has my husband done a lot of things for me over the years that wouldn’t have been his first choice? Oh yeah. I’m pretty sure the balance is fairly uneven and it’s about time his wants trumped mine, especially since this isn’t my vehicle. I just need to be able to drive it, not drive it all the time.

Baby, you can drive my car, but it’s probably going to be awhile before I can drive yours!

Once upon a time in a life long-removed from the one I lead, my Prince Charming invited me into his castle and into his heart. Can it really be 27 years ago when I knew I’d found my forever Valentine? That the snows fell on top of bare footprints left on the patio in front of a sizzling grill? That a house I barely knew was already starting to become my own, my future?

The gleaming three-single-guy kitchen became something magical when seen only by the light of candles standing in borrowed candleholders. Wineglasses filled with deep burgundy reflected flickering flames, but my dinner date’s smile burned even brighter. How could I not fall in love with this man—and his slightly slobbery but ever adoring springer spaniel who sat attentive at his feet?

(c) 1987 Trina Lange

(c) 1987 Trina Lange

So many adventures, so much laughter, so much joy, alongside so much loss—such is a life well-lived together. Despite fairy tale expectations of romance, it’s in the staying and helping each other where we show a lifetime commitment to love. We are no longer those young people beginning our journey together, yet we remain together on this journey, come what may.

And come what may, may we never forget to keep the candles—and the sense of possibility—burning in our lives together.

(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

We are back from our working vacation—working because there’s always plenty to do when you are around four boys ages six and under—and trying to get ready for a wedding. That’s not to say we didn’t have fun because we did and not just at our nephew’s wedding. Still, this week following we’ve been exceptionally sleepy as we return to our own space and our much quieter lives. That’s OK, though, because some activities are so full of joy and hope that they’re well worth all the work.

Life itself is work, but that work is so much more enjoyable in relationship with others. And in a life well-lived, marriage and family are not just work but play, too.

Those marriage and family relations are the reasons why Sherman and I packed our new car to the brim, spending ten days away and traveling half a day across the Great Plains each way. Though our kids had college and work obligations, we made sure they had plane tickets to bring them to and from the festivities for the weekend. Family matters—and we wouldn’t want to miss celebrating the ceremony that added one more member into our ever-expanding circle.

My brother Scott and I grew up together in Nebraska with parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. Family to us meant moving between the relative quiet of spending time with our only child father’s parents to the crazy hubbub of our mother’s family filled with all ages of relatives, but either way, it always meant devoting time to family.

Around 29 years ago I struck out for Colorado and a couple years later Scott left for Oklahoma, with our parents following to a different location in Colorado 18 years ago. Though Scott and I formed new family connections in our adopted hometowns, we have always remained connected to one another and to the rest of our extended families.

The time our own little family spent in Oklahoma was just one long demonstration of how people care for one another within their circles. Scott and his wife Lori have full-time care for her son’s four boys. This is just one, but very major way, Scott fulfills his wedding vows to his wife of 26 years. Her people are now his people. Lori’s extended family members, especially her mother, help them care for the boys, as Lori and Scott have helped with their niece and nephews. And by virtue of my relationship to Scott, her people are my people, too, just as they are my husband’s people. Sometimes we make our families and sometimes they choose us through others already in our original families.

When we weren’t chasing four boys—or being chased by them—we, as in the extended family we, were preparing for the joyous night when our nephew Chris would publicly declare his commitment to his future wife Mona and when we would formally welcome her into the family to which she has already shown so much dedication.

Whether it was putting together centerpieces with Laura, mother of the bride, “rubbing” the ribs with the groom’s uncle, shopping at Sam’s Club, guiding the three-year-old and almost two-year-old into carrying water bottles, setting up and setting out direction signs, placing tablecloths, ordering potato salad, taking a kid out of the ceremony when disruptive, silk-screening designs, settling a child who needed to sleep, taking kids overnight, or cleaning up—just a few activities from a much longer list—family came together to labor in love.

So it came to pass that on a windy November night with an almost-full moon rising, we met with more family and friends in a grove of pines illuminated by twinkling lights to watch the magic of a man and a woman declaring—in front of God, family, and friends—to share one another’s love, along with all the joy, burdens, and work that will follow.

True love is a verb and I am so honored to be one of the many who labored to ensure that the new Mr. and Mrs. Lange felt surrounded by such a large circle of people who love them as they began their own family circle within the fuller circles of extended family.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

This is number 24—that’s right, 24 Valentine’s Days with my sweetheart. However, I don’t think this will be our most romantic one yet. We’re mostly looking forward to a quiet dinner at home, reading aloud to one another, and getting some good sleep.

It’s not so much that we’re too old or that we’ve grown tired of one another. Oh no, we’re just plain tired from the last few weeks . . . or longer.

But the activities we’ve been doing lately are what love is really about. You see, love, the verb, is an emotion turned into action.

My mother loved me from my earliest days and so it came to me to love her through her last days, as well as to try to do justice to that mother love through how I said goodbye to her in a formal ceremony.

The thing is, though, I could never have had the strength to do all the things I needed to do for her over the last few years without Sherman’s support, through the tasks he did for either her or me, during the times he just walked beside me with her, or when he held me up when I thought I could not carry on.

You see, I knew nothing of that type of love that first Valentine’s Day. I thought it was something that he cleaned his house for me as well as grilled me steaks—barefoot outside on a snowy night—and gave me chocolate—a whole lot of chocolate, actually. He was cute, funny, and thoughtful—could he be my knight in shining armor coming to my emotional rescue?

How little I knew of the real meaning behind “Grow old along with me!”

By now I’ve seen enough of old age to know that, at least on the surface, the best is not always yet to be.

But dig below that surface and maybe, just maybe, you start to realize that the best is really about knowing you have someone by your side that will stay there no matter what—God willing and the creek don’t rise.

So even though we haven’t had much time for traditional romance in the over three weeks since I lost my mother, Sherman has been at my side throughout the many tasks and whenever else I have needed him. His love language is “acts of service” and it has shown as I have had to work with my brother Scott on practical matters and both our families have had to prepare for our local memorial service this past weekend.

Yesterday Scott and his wife Lori, as well as Sherman and I, sent their son and our kids back to their college homes away from home. This morning I said goodbye to Scott and Lori as they drove off with their vehicle packed to the brim with items from the storage unit and all the paperwork to finish out the estate.

Today I’ve focused on regaining some order here while Sherman has returned to work.

Tonight we rest, but tomorrow . . . ? There are 364 other days a year for romance—still time for the best yet to be.

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert