What Christmas was meant to be

image retrieved from http://www.themotherhuddle.com

Christmas time. A wondrous time of year. We wait for it, long for it- anticipating the smells and sounds, sights and feelings of another festive holiday season.

Christmas. That time of year we associate with peace and goodwill and joy. That time of year for baking and presents, music and laughter. That time of year for believing there is a silver lining to the dark clouds of life. That time of year we hold out a reason for hope. A reason for a miracle.

That special time of year.

It’s Christmas time. A time we have relegated to the magical at one end of the spectrum, the miraculous at the other. So expectant are we, so desiring of wonder. So eager for a sign. We want so much, and yet we settle for so little.

I talk to her on the phone and she recounts the fact that there is water damage in the thousands. That, added to the already overwhelming circumstances in her life, those intervening variables that have shifted the course and re-routed the journey of a life to a new path not easily traveled. And she says to me, “I can’t believe this is Christmas.”

Can’t believe that real life is happening in spite of the fact that Christmas is here upon us, waiting in the wings ready to make its grand entrance. Can’t believe that Christmas can happen within the mess of everyday living- the jumble of disaster and heartache and sorrow and pain- as a steady as a summer rain. The one thing we can count on for sure in this life is we will have trouble. It’s a promise.

Yes. It’s Christmas time. And life goes on. Life continues to travel forward, following the worn, rugged path etched out in time. Continues to make a passageway through hills and valleys, crossing roads that climb the steep incline. We walk, stumble forward- as weary travelers bent on reaching our destination, come what may. And all along the way, we face our trouble. Square on at times, in fits and starts at others.

Come what may.

And what may will come- we can be sure of that. Sickness and sorrow, death and devastation. Nothing stops for Christmas. Nothing is placed on hold as a promise for a single day. Trouble is here, even at this special time of year. This we know for sure.

For life is hard, even at Christmas time. Perhaps especially at Christmas time. Life is hard. And living is never really easy. Getting up and facing another day, another challenge is a tremendous struggle. Placing one foot in front of the other enough of an obstacle.

Life is brutally hard.
Ask the woman with cancer.
Ask the man with Parkinson’s.
Ask the child without hot water.
Ask the boy who wears the thin smile to hide the pain. The girl whose Daddy isn’t coming home. The person you see standing there in the doctor’s office looking death in the face.
Ask anyone with any trouble of any varying degree if the burden is easy to carry.

Or save yourself the trouble- don’t bother asking. Just look at your own life and you will say with certainty: life is hard.

I am making the bed in the far bedroom when she tells me over the phone wires, that this year she feels the gentle pull of the heart to make this Christmas simpler. To eliminate everything that hinders, consumes, overwhelms and occupies her time, reverting her focus. Because time is precious. And Christmas is fleeting. This year, she’s keeping it simple.

She says her plan this year is to remember what’s important. To remember that Christmas is not about how much stuff we accumulate, but about the people we’ve been given to bless our lives- for however short or lengthy a given time. Her plan is to keep it simple. To remember that we don’t have to run around like banshees making something happen, cooking up a storm. For Christmas is a place in our hearts, not a spot located under the tree or a container stashed away inside a kitchen pantry. Her plan is to just let Christmas happen- let it unfold, without adding unnecessary things or events to clutter the soul.

Christmas was never about all that stuff anyway.

So many Christmases ago, another woman- worn and weary from travel, aching from the load she bore, came to rest in a humble cattle shed. Pregnant, she longed for a place to lie down, having just traversed with her husband-to-be over an eighty mile trek. All this, mostly by foot. Consider the thoughts in her head- fear mixed with worry. Wonder mixed with concern. The two sojourned through country riddled with robbers and vagrants waiting for an easy target, yet still she and Joseph pressed onwards- knowing all the while that her body housed the Savior of the world. Tradition would have us to believe that she traveled on the back of a donkey. We will never know for sure in this life; but if it were a donkey, consider the ride a woman in her state would have taken. Awkward, uncomfortable, painful at worst. She must have felt like giving up, turning back. Must have wanted to cry and scream out for the exhaustion of it all. Tired, hungry and thirsty, they forged onward- in spite of the harsh reality of their lives. In spite of it all. And all this, so as to bring Christmas to all of us, to deliver hope to a cold, dark, dreary world.

Jesus never came to us when life was good. He came to earth when it was not. So as to give us Christmas. So as to bring us so much more. He came to bring hope. Came to bring healing. Came so as to comfort us. Provide us with salvation. That baby born rough and ready in Bethlehem became a man who indentified and does even still today, understanding the pain and hurt of our situation. Because the life He lived here on earth as a human was never easy, was never simple. But He lived it so as to give us hope that we can do the same.

Because He lived as we did, we too can face our present situation, our uncertain tomorrows. Because He still lives within the heart of humankind, for all those willing to provide Him room- we too can face the future without fear, finding hope in the knowing that because He lives, so can we.

This year, Christmas will be different in our immediate family. Life doesn’t always work out how you plan it, how you wish it would be. But life can still be beautiful even in the messy. Can still be precious even with the unexpected. Christmas can still be miraculous even in the harshest realities of the moment. For Christmas is in our heart. And we hold it carefully as a precious gift, thanking God that He has granted us the opportunity to experience the wonder of it all for yet another year.

This year, I too am keeping it simpler. Cutting out the stuff that really doesn’t matter anyway. And I pray that this Christmas will be one I never forget. That this Christmas will be one I remember forever.
That Christmas this year will be a place in my heart, not an event on my calendar. A blessed Christmas of hope and healing.

That’s what Christmas was meant to be from the very beginning.

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Giving Christmas Away This Year

For the past few weeks, my two youngest children have been talking about what they want for Christmas. The lists began to form about mid-November, a modest collection of this and that. Nothing that would break the bank or Santa’s aching back as he pulls that sack up and of his sleigh. And of course, it’s fun to think about the magic of Christmas at this time of year- writing letters to Santa, browsing through dog-eared copies of the Sear’s Wishbook.

But it is all too easy to get caught up in that holiday hullabaloo- shopping, ticking things off our list. Compiling our lists of wants and needs.

I have been struck this year by the fact that there are people- adults and children the world over, who sadly know that this is their last Christmas spent here on earth. Their last Christmas ever. And with that in mind, I have started to shift my focus to a few of these stories.

Meet Addie Fausett- she’s a little girl much like my own MaryAnne or the little ones I teach in my kindergarten classroom. Except Addie is dying- this is her last Christmas. Due to an unknown illness, she stopped growing when she was 3 and she now weighs all of 23 pounds. Doctors told her Mom last month that she will not last more than the coming year. With that in mind, her family wants to make this Christmas one of the most meaningful ones they have ever had. Because all Addie really wants materialistically this year as a gift is some Christmas cards from all of her friends. There has been a world-wide appeal for Christmas cards for her, as this would be one of the more meaningful gifts a child spending their last Christmas might like to receive.

If you would be interested in sending her a card, here is her address:

Addie Fausett
c/o Tami Fausett
Box 162, Fountain Green, Utah, USA 84632

Meet Cali Griggs- a little girl from Glendale, Arizona. She’s two years-old, and she has terminal cancer. A couple of weeks ago, the doctors gave her one to three months to live, but her parents intuitively believe she won’t even make it until Christmas. All Cali wants this year is to experience Christmas- the lights, the glow, the paper-wrapping, the smells and sounds. The snow. Her community came together in mid-November to create a winter wonderland for her outside her home. “She just wanted to get out and play with everything. She was so happy. And I had to fight it, I was about to cry,” said Greg Griggs, Cali’s father.

And if these stories are not enough to break our hearts, meet Aimee Willett who is 26. She’s a mommy to two precious little boys. She had her first ever, routine PAP test this past year and in June, doctors told her there was cancer and it was inoperable. Doctors have told her that she is unlikely to survive until 2016. This will be her last Christmas

I ask myself: is there something I can do? However small that something might be. Something I can do even within the community in which I live. The school in which I teach. Is there something I can do- both for these precious families as well as for the others who are unknown and living out countless stories much like these three I have shared above?

Don’t we all play a part in making this Christmas an unforgettable one for the people we encounter around us?

I write this piece not to make anyone feel guilty or pressured- only so as to broaden hearts and give us all a deeper awareness of the world around us. I write so as to remind myself and others that this Christmas: we can make it the most meaningful one ever both for ourselves and for others by choosing to think outside our comfort zone- outside our private lives. We can make it meaningful by choosing to extend our love- our care and concern, to the multitude of others in the world around us.

We can GIVE Christmas away this year.

Christmas Miracles {for when you are at a sad part of the story}

It was mealtime at the manor.

She was seated eating her lunch directly across from my grandmother, my own Mom gently assisting my 94-years strong Grammie. A conversation was struck up between the three, Mom, Grammie and the friendly resident.  And all this, inviting the launch of an unexpected conversation which was then to unfold over the course of the shared meal.

As the woman talked, she became passionately involved in the tale she was sharing. A former educational administrative assistant, she spoke of years gone by: talked of joys and eventually of great sorrows. And when she finally bowed her head and began to sob quietly, it seemed incongruous with the strong, able woman of moments prior. The nurse- alarmed, ran over to see what had happened to cause the change. The woman’s reply,

It’s okay, I am just at a sad part of the story.”

And isn’t this the reality of our lives so much of the time?  We find ourselves living the sad part of the story. Those moments, when mere words fail to abate, fail to ease the pain; when mere words fail to act as consolation. For what is a word, a phrase or expression in the face of desolate sorrow? What is a word when it is found hanging, suspended in the thickness of the air in which we exchange our pleasantries? What is a word when expressed within the shadow of pain, in the overhanging spectre that is our grief?

What is a word anyway?

Another, this lovely One much younger than the first- she stood in front of me, worn. And our eyes locked- perhaps so did our hearts. In her gaze I could read a thousand stories, could see a thousand pictures flash before our eyes: such was the depth of her sorrow, her intensely felt pain. And my heart moved within me, reaching out to hers: because I wished I could do something. Wished I could do anything, anything- to meet the need I felt so tangibly was there. I wished beyond hoping to find a way in which to share the load she bore. Wished I could present some small offering so as to carry and hold. Wished.

If wishes were horses (far stronger than I).

And this pain we sense in others- is it not felt more deeply when we have known of it first-hand? When we have drank from the bitter cup and tasted the wrath? We who know first-hand- we are the ones attuned to the pitching fork of life’s harshest realities. Like skillfully adept musicians waiting for the lament. We feel deeply, care heart-fully, weep openly, rage sorrowfully. For the injustices at both the intricately personal level of living as well as those felt more widely, the world over.

We long for a word of hope to let light shine if only through the crevices of our broken hearts. We all ache for the hurt we know is there inside us all. And our hearts overflow with the weight. The immense vastness. We long for a droplet of hope giving promise for a thaw, so as to ease our unquenchable thirst for more. And at Christmas of all times we long the most for that Word of hope bringing expectation that something more awaits us if we just BELIEVE.

Believe.

We talk of Christmas miracles. We dream of, pine for, long for the possibility of the extraordinary at this time of year when at all other times we might resort to despair. We hope for so much more than we could ever even imagine. Wanting our lives to be something they might not already be. Wanting our situation to change, our extenuating circumstances to right themselves. Wanting our path to move forward in a positive direction. Wanting so much- and believing against the odds that it all might be possible. That it all might happen at this time of year.

But perhaps we’ve given up on the miracle. Perhaps it has been lost on us over the years. We feel there isn’t any substance to thoughts of wonder, to thoughts of the miraculous. We’ve given up on miracles, cast off thoughts of the supernatural. Stopped believing in the Divine. Ceased embracing the world around us as potential for miracle; we only feel its pain. Only sense its horror. The sadness and heartache that is a world gone horribly wrong. And we wonder if the idea of miracles is all just a lovely dream for others in more fortunate circumstances. For others with a life of ease and pleasure, whoever those others might be. It could never be for us. Could never be for ordinary folk.

But what if:

The Christmas miracle was planted as a seed inside us all?

It was a gift of perspective, outlook- a turning point of sorts?

A way of viewing the world, our lives and the people we encounter as we never have seen them before?

What if the miracle was caring for the very lives we’ve been given along with caring for the people in these beautiful lives of ours, in ways we never cared before? Reaching out in love to meet the need, reaching out in empathy so as to cross the great divide?

And what if the people we saw right in front of us were part of the gift, were pieces of the puzzle telling us what this life was all about- were the mortal reasons for the gift? Placed in our paths so that we could share the miracle- the gift of understanding and hope with them, through our very words and deeds? Through our thoughts and our actions?

What if the Christmas miracle was closer to us all than we thought possible?

For Christmas miracles are only experienced when we open our hearts to believing that they just might be possible. Even when life fails us miserably, we believe that there is good to be found. Counting that good we see as a blessed promise that the best is yet to come. Believing beyond the reality of our present circumstances that Good can come from sorrow and pain. That joy, like the newborn Child from millennia ago, can be borne from the depths of darkness shining light among us. Hope was given to us long Christmases ago so that we might hold fast to the wonder even in this messy present- so that we could believe in miracles today. Given so that we could have faith as small as a tiny seed to believe that miracles are indeed for real.

And they are. They really are.

photo retrieved from wallruru.com

Our lasting hope, our consolation

My dear friend- buried Monday on a beautiful November afternoon. Snow softly falling as if to quell the pain. The hour prior, friends and family crowded into a small country church, four hundred strong to say last goodbyes. To sing and pay tribute to the woman they loved while honoring the God she adored. To bring humble offerings before the One who had held her through it all- knowing that same Dear One stood in God’s very presence even as we mourned. Her beloved family there, lining the rows. Clutching Kleenex in hand, heads bowed in sorrow even as they said final earthly goodbyes to a wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunt and kindred spirit. Not a dry eye in the place.

What if your blessings come through rain drops What if Your healing comes through tears What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

This life- it is never time enough for those of us who love. We always crave for more. More time, more moments, more memories, more laughter, more hugs, more touch. More opportunity. And when time is up and eternity claims the ones we hold the closest, we wonder: where is the good in all of this? How can good come from so much sorrow?

When friends betray us When darkness seems to win We know that pain reminds this heart That this is not, This is not our home It’s not our home

And this life- it is so hard. So much to bear. I talk to another precious woman, listening as she shares her story of a broken marriage, a baby lost and the hope of any other future babies gone with a medical complication not of her own doing. I talk to others, even as I think back over this past week’s events and wonder: how can we carry on? A colleague killed crossing the road, another three-car pile-up, a mother left to carry the burden of her sister’s accident, a father and mother-in-law struggling with the ravages of Parkinson’s. A father taken, a mother. Disease and death surround us at every turn. And that is just my story- my precious friends with their own stories of sadness to share. It is all too much. One doesn’t have to look very far to see the misery that this life brings. Our own dear family- both immediate and extended- a testament to this truth. So much suffering. So much pain. And I have to wonder, how is all the misery of this life able to become a blessing?

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace Comfort for family, protection while we sleep We pray for healing, for prosperity We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

We pray for the realization of all that we believe would give us joy: an end to cancer, an end to disease. An end to brokenness of any sort. We pray for restoration in marriage, for lengthy lives lived until the grey hairs crown our heads in glory. We pray for an end to all suffering. We pray for inner peace, familial peace, relational peace, world peace. An end to poverty, famine, war and pestilence. We pray for an end to our misery and trouble. We pray.

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love As if every promise from Your word is not enough

And we wonder: where is God? Where is God in all of this? I come across a beautiful message in my Facebook feed from this same dear friend whom I am mourning the loss, a note written to me six years earlier. Who would have known that this message would come back into my present reality and speak to me- as if they were words given to me in my time of sorrow from God Himself. Words offering comfort and hope.She writes:

Hi Lori, I know things are going to work out for all of you, time is a healer and GOD is all powerful, nothing happens without a reason…the healing can start…. Time will bring everything back to where it should be!! …you are a wonderful person, God is not finished with any of us yet, and he is doing a wonderful work in you, it may be a very DIFFICULT time right now, but look how close you have come to God in all of it!! GOD is using you in many ways, some you are not even aware of, HOW EXCITING!!! Just let go and let GOD, he is carrying you and he will never let you go. I was thinking of that song today, it is my favorite and my prayer when I am down, “Draw me close to you, never let me go” I pray that you feel so close to GOD, I love you guys, and am still praying for you all!! Good night my friend! and GOD BLESS YOU.

And all the while, You hear each spoken need Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

What if the heartache of this life was the pathway to understanding? What if the insight we gained, the perspective we were offered- was the open door? What if the purpose of all this pain and sorrow in life was not for it all to end, but for us to endure so as to find the beauty within the pain? What if beauty could truly come through ashes? Joy through mourning? What if every-day, private miracles were just as necessary as public sensations? What if the little moments of victory were our true pursuit? And what if the moments whereby inner strength was gained were as valuable as those moments we derived the sustaining ability necessary to climb physical mountains?

What if life was less about the mountain-top and more about the climb?

And all the while, You hear each desperate plea And long that we’d have faith to believe

I take a walk the day after, last goodbyes already having been spoken; and the brilliant sunset brings me to tears. It is not that I see my precious friend or even Heaven in this earthly vision so much as I see hope. It makes me long for another time, another place. I think of Heaven and Wendy and others who are there. I think of Jesus and I long for home. Long for an end to the aching of this life. A brand new beginning.

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy What if trials of this life The rain, the storms, the hardest nights Are your mercies in disguise

And this is our lasting hope, our consolation: eternity. Forever is such a very long time.

Our Hope

Oh, Canada

Oh, Canada- our home…and native land.

This has been a very difficult week.  A difficult week for Canada. A difficult week for us all. And for those of us struggling personally- with private issues that remain largely unseen, what happened yesterday might feel like the straw that broke the camel’s back. The last remaining fiber holding fragile hearts together. Causing us to feel a sense of hopelessness- causing us to feel bereft, discouraged and desperate. These are difficult times by anyone’s standards. Whenever I turn on my inspirational Christian radio station these days on Sirius satellite, the songs all talk of hope. It seems to be what we crave, what we desire more than anything else in a world gone horribly wrong. Listen to the words of this song:

“Hope sleeps without me Her sweet dreams surround me, But I’m left out I’ll need a fix now To believe, to feel These rooms are dark now These halls are hollow, And so am I She is hard to find now To believe, to see Hope is what we crave, And that will never change So I stand and wait I need a drop of grace To carry me today, A simple song to say It’s written on my soul: Hope’s what we crave I won’t turn to dust now Let these tears rust now On my face Give me the spark now To believe, to see Hope is what we crave, And that will never change So I stand and wait I need a drop of grace To carry me today, A simple song to say It’s written on my soul: Hope’s what we crave…”

It is indeed- it’s what we want more than anything. When all is crumbling around us: we crave for hope. When the lights dim and the spark’s snuffed out: we crave for hope. When the embers are dying and the fire has been all but extinguished, we want nothing more than hope. Hope is what we crave.

“To live, to die, To lose, to care, To rise above To love again To love again Hope is what we crave, And that will never change So I stand and wait I need a drop of grace To carry me today, A simple song to say Hope is what we crave I need a drop of grace It’s written on my soul: Hope’s what we crave It’s written on my soul: Hope’s what we crave Hope’s what we crave Hope’s what I crave.”

Hope. It’s there- within our grasp. It stands in front of us- luminous and free. And we can claim it- it’s ours to hold onto. And all because of this- Hope was found rising just 2000 years ago. Hope rose. And Hope still lives today. Hope might be what we crave- but as sure as I’m standing, hope is what He gave.

And that hope’s in front of me.

“I’ve been running through rain That I thought would never end Trying to make it on faith In a struggle against the wind I’ve seen the dark and the broken places But I know in my soul No matter how bad it gets I’ll be alright There’s hope in front of me There’s a light, I still see it There’s a Hand still holding me Even when I don’t believe it I might be down but I’m not dead There’s better days still up ahead Even after all I’ve seen There’s hope in front of me There’s a place at the end of the storm You finally find Where the hurt and the tears and the pain All fall behind You open up your eyes and up ahead There’s a big sun shining Right then and there you realize You’ll be alright There’s hope in front of me There’s a light, I still see it There’s a Hand still holding me Even when I don’t believe it I might be down but I’m not dead There’s better days still up ahead Even after all I’ve seen There’s hope in front of me There’s a hope still burning I can feel it rising through the night And my world’s still turning I can feel your love here by my side You’re my hope You’re the light, I still see it Your Hands are holding me Even when I don’t believe it I’ve got to believe I still have hope You are my hope.”

God, you are our Hope

Who I truly am

Kitchen Sink, by Andrea Smith

We are drying dishes at the kitchen sink, she and I, when she asks me in words other than I will be using right here, right now: “Do people get me? Do they understand and appreciate who I really am?” I am at once taken aback at the question. I dry a plate and set it down, picking up a utensil and carefully turning it over in my hands even as I turn her reframed question over in my mind. Does anyone ever truly appreciate who we are underneath it all? Do we really ever know how to love one another like that- freely, openly, honestly, truly?

I have been thinking about that question all week. Thinking about how much we appear to care- thinking about how much I know I do care. Care about how other people understand me in all my complexity. For we are complex, complicated, intricate people with more definition and capacity than just what lies at surface level.

Sometimes I think we are all so fragile- like a Faberge egg. Something so delicate but so detailed in its truest form.

And so, I think within us all there is a desire to see both ourselves and others for who we truly are. To be acknowledged for that good that lies within, whatever form that goodness might be in its purest sense. Because I also think that underneath our harshest critiques of our own selves, underneath all the mis/takes and errors and failed opportunities and blunders we so often make (we don’t deny our failings), we do see within ourselves that we have at the very least, good intentions. Some might even go further to say that they are actually something better than merely a ‘try’: that they are loving and kind and compassionate and caring in their truest being. That’s how we can see ourselves when we gaze to the very deepest parts of who we are- when all the trappings of reality are peeled back and our soul is exposed raw. Not many people would describe themselves as truly hateful, horrible and unkind. We know that we are not that cruel. That’s because we can see the best in ourselves. We have that ability and are afforded that position and perspective: to see the truth about who we really are underneath it all.

We know who we are at our innermost core. And who we are is not that bad.

But often when I look at others, I see what I want to see. If that person has made me feel happy, I see the person as warm and loving. If the person is funny and makes me laugh, I see the person as witty, humorous and entertaining. If that one in question has made me think, I see them as deep and contemplative. If the person has made me feel sad, I see the person as hurtful and wounding. Or if I feel angry as a result of our interactions, I see in that person everything I don’t like or prefer about our relationship with one another. I see the failings. The truth of the matter is, I see what I feel.  And what I see is often very one-dimensional. If what I feel is positive, then the view is positive.  If what I see is negative, then the view is negative.

I don’t have the unique vantage point of knowing everything about the person so as to make an affirming, open-minded view. I can’t really ever get inside their head.

But what if I kept an open mind and saw people how they truly wanted to be seen? As how they saw themselves? Flawed, but beautiful. Tarnished but valuable. Imperfect yet complete. Becoming who they were meant to be while being who they truly are at this given moment of lived experience?

What if?

I have a dear friend who has told me time and again that she believes that within everyone is goodness and pure intention. She acknowledges that within humankind there is the possibility to inflict pain and wound. She sees that the world has pain and suffering . But still she insists that there is something good within people in spite of this reality. I see parts of what she is saying as reflecting my own belief. Coming from a Christian world-view, while I do believe that there is injustice and ill will within the hearts of humanity, I do see that we have been given a desire toward goodness. But because there is pain in this world, there is pain within us. Hurting people hurt. That does not make hurting people at the core of who they are evil. It does make them implicated in the act of unkindness, but not forever defined by it. That same hurting person is probably wounded. Or suffering in some way. But aren’t we all at the heart of our truest self? For when we are wounded and injured- particularly at the core of our being, our ability to focus on kindness and compassion is limited. It’s just not a priority. Not to mention that kindness is a muscle we use. The more it is used, the more it develops and grows into all it was intended to be.

I realize that at the heart of who I am is the desire to do what is good and right and pure and acceptable. The fact of the matter is that I can’t reach that standard every day and in every instance. Sometimes I fail to project the heart of who I am. Fail to project the image of who I know I can be. That’s where grace comes into play. Because I am loved by a Father that knows my heart and loves me for all I am, He takes me as I am and helps me be all I was meant to be.

In spite of how good I think I am.

In spite of my failings.

In spite of how good I might falsely project myself to be at times.

In spite of how others see me.

In spite of my superficiality.

In spite of my missteps.

In spite of everything.

He loves me anyway- that’s because He alone can see to the heart of his creation. He alone can see me. The beautiful person He lovingly thought of and breathed life into at the moment I was still just a dream in the heart of my parents. He knew me. He still knows me. And He always will.

Oh for a love like that. What grace that entails.

Why We Care

She slouches on the vinyl chair next to mine, chewing her lip, twirling her hair. Wrinkles creasing her brow. And as she sits, I wonder.  Is she thinking of what to expect, even as she knows the reason for why we are here? Or is there more to the wonder than mere childlike speculation?

The reason for why we have left the house at such a crazy-early hour to drive for two hours was not, of course, to only sit and wait. We are here for other more pressing concerns. And yet, there is always the fear of the great unknown- especially for a child.

Not to mention of course the apprehension it brings the mother.

The doctor arrives with a bluster of energy and vigour. She immediately puts at ease what was formerly a worry. What was moments ago a source of stress, a source of concern, is now an afterthought in light of this physician’s delightful presence. She just seems to do this work so naturally- without a thought to the magic she has achieved. Weaving a tapestry of compassion through her laid-back banter, silly jokes and thoughtful concern. But then again: doesn’t care always have that gentle way of easing, of lessening the burden? And as the moments tick toward the hour we will spend in this tiny little room, I find my daughter relaxing. Find her unwinding, creased brow giving way to a smile. And all this because a doctor has chosen to spend this hour in this room with us, taking the time needed to care for the person, rather than merely just diagnosing the patient.

If a busy doctor, bound by the relentless expectations and constraints that often define this demanding profession, can make the time to show caring, compassionate concern, so might we do much of the same in the field of education.

It is not a matter of should- it is a matter of how.

How can we invest in the lives of our students in caring, compassionate ways even as the demands around us increase exponentially?

We can and we must, and one way I propose this can be done is through investing in care. That is, making it a priority to value the person that is the student- along with the tandem idea of valuing the people as a whole which comprise our classroom community. Through valuing and giving worth to the human beings that represent the education system in which they are found, we give credence to the humanity of the students. We recognize the person-hood of each boy and girl, man or woman who sit in front of us day after day. And this- all achieved by seeing though the test scores, records and data to the very real hearts and souls of the children and teenagers that we are called to teach. Taking the time to know the story of their lives instead of reducing them to a number and figure on paper. Taking the time to understand the context in which the students we learn alongside- live, work and play. For when this happens, we can fully care for our students in their learning, development and growth even while the system might appear to breath heavy down our necks. After all, if we sacrifice care on the altar of academic standards of excellence, haven’t we lost everything?

Standards mean little if the people that represent them are dehumanized.