Un Poco

He always called me “un poco”, Spanish for a little. The first time I met him, his wife proudly told me that he was teaching himself Spanish. His native language is German and he also speaks English and French. He has always had a gift for language, she tells me. He sees her gesture toward his Spanish text, open on the dining room table, and he asks me if I speak Spanish.

“¿Hablas Español?” he asks.

“Un poco,” I reply.

He gets a great laugh out of this and repeats it. He repeats it to his wife although she is standing right next to him and has heard our interaction. I have come to meet him and his wife at their home in Northern Virginia. They downsized several years earlier to a beautiful three-level townhome in a lovely community with lots of long walking paths and beautiful flowerbeds. They enjoy going on walks and I can imagine them walking hand in hand along the paths.

He always holds her hand. Even as they show me around inside their home, he is holding her hand. She anchors him to keep his confusion from pulling him off his feet. I can imagine him floating off like a balloon if she were to let go of his hand. As we walk around their home, she fondly shows me all the wonderful mementoes they have collected during a lifetime together. This is one of my favorite parts of the job, so I don’t rush her. I look at the items and hear the stories about how they found their treasures. They show me a beautifully framed rubbing they made of a stone carving at temple they visited many years ago. He is still holding her hand as they stand in front of the rubbing and I know she is remembering the day they made it. He will wait there gazing at it for as long as she does. He must take his cues from her.

Their daughter is the one that arranged my first meeting with them. She stops by a few times a week to bring groceries and make sure they are both doing okay. She will be out of town for two weeks and needs someone to take over for her. And if there is an emergency, is it okay if they call you? Even if it is in the middle of the night?

When I drop by to visit during the week, he does not remember me. His wife explains to him in their native German that I am there to visit them while their daughter is on vacation. He does not understand, or quickly forgets, and she must soon explain again. Eventually, sometimes as I am moving toward the front door at the end of my visit, sometimes earlier, but always after I have been there a while and his wife has reminded him several times, his memory is suddenly triggered. I can plainly see on his face that he has remembered me. He smiles broadly, reaching out to grasp my hand, and says, “¡Un poco!”


As Children

My husband and I are about to double down on grandbabies. Our two sons, who each have one son already, are both expecting new arrivals in late March. We already know one of the babies on the way is a boy, which is significant because I have six nephews and one niece, two sons, and two grandsons. Hmmm, a pattern is beginning to emerge. We are terrified that the fourth grandbaby will be a girl. None of us will know what to do with a little girl.

Sons and grandsons
My Boys

So, it’s no surprise that children have been on my mind recently. Young children truly believe they can do anything and that anything is possible. My five year old grandson saw a couple playing tennis at a park near my home and said to me “I’m going to go ask if I can play tennis with them.” When I explained that one has to learn and practice to be able to play tennis the way this couple did, he confidently replied that he was “sure” he could do it. He was so sure of it that I was hard pressed to dissuade him from asking them if he could join in. When he received roller skates last Christmas, he was confident that he would put them on and skate off down the sidewalk. Likewise, my younger grandson saw children break-dancing on TV and has been dazzling us with his stunning lack of break-dancing ability ever since.

Just as amazing, they easily believe the things they are told. My daughter-in-law explained to the 2 ½ year old that she had a baby in her tummy, that it would grow until it was big enough, and then out would come his new baby brother! Max accepted this information without question and further assumed that everyone must have a baby in his or her tummy. He enjoys walking up to random people to say hello to the baby in their tummy, much to their surprise.

Years ago I read about a study done in which two groups of students were given a test that was beyond their respective abilities to complete. The first was a group of Kindergarten students. When asked why they were unable to complete the test, they universally responded with “The test was too hard”. When high school students were given a test that was far beyond their abilities, they had a variety of explanations as to why they were unable to successfully complete it. Reasons such as “I didn’t try hard enough” and “I’m not smart enough” were given. The Kindergarten students easily accepted that the test was too hard and didn’t seem to give it much more thought.

Something about the attitudes of a young child must be very important because the Lord says that unless we can be like a little child we cannot reach the kingdom. I’m highly analytic, which leads to what some people referred to as “analysis paralysis”, meaning I get so wrapped up in looking at an issue or problem from every conceivable angle that I lose track of what it is I’m even trying to accomplish. The more muddled I become, the more I feel compelled to analyze. Kids don’t analyze; they just go with it. They are told and they believe. They can discern when something is beyond them—and they’re just fine with it. How can a control-freak like me ever hope to be like that? Fortunately, I know that with God all things are possible. If not for that, I would be lost.

God Is Home

Earlier this week, I read a piece by Charles Spurgeon on Deuteronomy 33:27, “The eternal God is thy refuge.” I tend to think of a refuge as some sort of fort or other protected place, but, in this particular piece, Spurgeon explains that the root of the word refuge goes more toward mansion or abiding place—the place where we live. As he says, “there is a fullness and sweetness” in the metaphor of God as a home rather than a fortress. I suffer from an anxiety disorder, so home has always been my safe place, the place where I feel most at ease, and I was immediately drawn to this idea of God as a home. Just as I take shelter in my home, I can take shelter in God. That’s right—in God.  As Spurgeon points out, God is our abode, our home, and we live in Him.

One of my favorite points is this: at home we can speak our hearts without worry about being misunderstood because we are with our loved ones who know us best and cherish us. It is even more so with God. We can communicate freely with Him because He understands us more deeply than any other and cherishes us more than any other.

The last point Spurgeon makes is that our home is what motivates us to get up and go to work in the morning. We work to maintain our home, to make it our cozy “refuge” from the troubles and trials of this world. Likewise, by thinking about God as our home, we desire to work harder to accomplish His work, to maintain our home in Him.

How warm and comforting it is to think of God this way. Yet, I struggle to keep this in mind as I enter the worldly fray each morning. As I pursue my Christian journey, in fits and starts, I feel myself diverging farther from the worldly path, the politically correct path, the publicly sanctioned path. I feel disconnected. I think that’s why it is so important to connect with other Christians—so that we can encourage each other and remind each other that God is home.

Mirror in the Sky

“Stevie Nicks – 1977”

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

In her song Landslide, Stevie Nicks contemplates the nature of love–romantic love, I always thought. But today, for the first time, I thought about those lyrics in the context of Christian love. As I explained in a previous post, I believe that contemporary music, whether intentionally or not, contains many more religious references than we realize. In fact, I recently heard a preacher, Dr. Charles Stanley, if I recall correctly, deliver a message around Bridge over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel, another iconic song  I’ve heard so many, many times and never once imagined any reference to God’s love.

When thinking about romantic love, many people think of 1 Corinthians. It’s a favorite choice for wedding ceremonies, and with good reason:

Corinthians 13:7-8 New International Version (NIV)

Love is patient, love is kind.

It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails…

Imagine a love like that in the context of marriage! It is a worthy goal, not just for a marriage but for any close relationship. But what then of our relationships with co-workers, casual acquaintances, or even strangers? The Bible clearly instructs us to love all others–not just our family members. How then do we apply the concept of love to all others? It can’t mean a romantic relationship with every other person in the world! Looking closely at 1 Corinthians verse 7-8, there is no attribute of love that cannot be applied to any relationship.

Personally, I define Christian love as wanting God’s best for another person, even if that means personal sacrifice. Ah, now that’s a concept that can be applied to any and all relationships. Of course I want God’s best for my husband and for my kids and grandkids. The stretch is wanting God’s best for every other person, even if it means personal sacrifice. This is the reason I bother to share these thoughts, even though I know there will be many that disagree and perhaps some that will regard the idea as ridiculous and outdated. Nevertheless, I ask you to consider the meaning Christian love has for you.