Tag Archives: love

the profound act of simple inclusion

The Profound Act of Simple Inclusion

The Science Behind Why We All Want to Be Accepted

Look around. It’s no secret that many people are vying for attention.

Colored hair. Piercings. Expensive clothing. A totally muscular body.

Tattoos or a luxury car. A huge home, kids who are worshipped.

There are all kinds of ways we get others to say, “Look at me!”

Even this, just a blog, innocent though it may be, is a way to grab attention:

It whispers, I have something to say, and I want you to listen.

I want you to…

hear me,

see me,

know me,

like me,

accept me.

All humans want to be accepted.

They don’t want to be abused.

They don’t want to be ignored.

They don’t even want to be tolerated.

Deep down, what we all want is true love, the real kind, the good kind.

The kind of love that says, I see that you’re what the world calls different, and I love you just the same.

The kind of love that says, you’re normal, and I know there’s really no such thing.

The kind of love that says, I will stick by you come hell or highwater, and we will make it through.

The kind of love that says, I created you, came down for you, and gave up all my glory just for you.

The kind of love that says, skin is skin and circumstances are circumstances, but your soul is what I see.

What’s funny is, when we know that something isn’t for us, it’s hard for us to accept that kind of love, isn’t it?

When we’re hurting someone else by our words or actions, it’s hard to accept that love.

When we’re choosing to malign our own souls, it’s hard to accept that love.

When we’ve been so low that we see nothing but darkness–or when we’ve been so high the pedestal is waiting to topple–it’s hard to accept that love.

Humans aren’t meant for the high highs or the low lows. There’s a reason we were told not to eat from the proverbial tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

We’re not meant to be beaten down.

But we’re not meant to be worshipped, either.

It’s why the severely abused and the psychotically adored tend to behave the same.

We’re meant to meander through the gray area, the color that makes us think.

It’s in the gray that we look up.

It’s in the gray that we lean on others.

And that’s where we find our peace, in the looking up and the looking around, the reaching high and the reaching out, the singing and the serving.

Science tells us this is so:

Recent research suggests yet another way our well-being can benefit from practicing pro-social behavior: helping others regulate their emotions helps us regulate our own emotions, decreases symptoms of depression and ultimately, improves our emotional well-being.

psychologytoday.com, “In Helping Others, You Help Yourself”

What I’ve found in my own life is that empathy is the path to inclusion.

When I place my feet in the shoes of another–rich, poor, black, white, gay, straight, religious, non-religious–I’m better able to understand who they are.

Understanding who they are always seems to lead me back to my Creator.

And the road to my Creator leads me right back home to my heart, where He dwells within.

How are you finding ways to include others? In this crazy world, it’s nice to feel wanted and loved.

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empathy is the path to inclusion monthtomilestones.com
sacrificial love month to milestone

Growing Older and Losing Loved Ones

What Sacrificial Love Looks Like

I was just a little girl yesterday, it seemed.

Long, dark-blonde hair. Terrible bangs. Navy eyes. A gangly little thing.

Every summer, from the time I was a baby until I was a junior in college, I spent a couple of weeks at my grandmother and grandfather’s house.

My grandparents lived in the Mississippi Delta, and it was truly what one would call a homeland, considering tons of aunts and uncles, “aunts and uncles” (what we called our older cousins–there were quite a few), and younger cousins lived there.

My older brother and I spent many mornings watching the old cartoons on Cartoon Network. We’d eat my grandmother’s homemade biscuits or a bag of powdered donuts from the Wonder Bread Factory.

Then, we’d get dressed and head outside to play. My grandmother’s backyard was like an enchanted wonderland. A master gardener, she’d spent what little money they had caring for the many plants and flowers that grew alongside the fence.

There was a small plum tree on the side of the yard. She used to to make homemade plum jelly, and it was the best I’d ever tasted to this day.

In the middle of the yard sat a swing I’d lay in, listening and laughing to stories my dad would tell about his three brothers and the shenanigans they all found themselves in.

We might drive to the Sack and Save for groceries, then visit my grandmother’s very best friend, my “Aunt” whom she’d spent every day with since birth.

That aunt had given birth to a child late in life, so we were close to the same age. One of my favorite people to this day.

Behind them lived my dad’s best friend, my “uncle.” His daughter and I were also the best of friends. That’s what cousins are for, after all.

I was blessed. These people, they provided a great deal of shade and stability when I needed it. As my childhood fell apart, they remained.

One of those in particular was my grandfather.

Radio Joe* was what we called him growing up, because he was always telling stories about inventing this thing or that. The radio, the airplane, MTV. He supposedly invented them all.

He was a tall man and strong. He’d spent his married life working in other countries for a construction company because he could make three times what he made at home.

By the time I was in high school, he’d retired from construction and had gone into the electrical business. He was smart and he was talented in music. I’m blessed to have a creative family, in that regard.

When I was in college, I attended a school not too far away from them. Every Sunday, before I went back, my grandfather would grill a steak for me and my grandma would make her famous potatoes. I was filled with good food and even better love.

The older I got, my grandparents seemed to stay the same, at least for a long time.

I got married and they were there.

I gave birth to my children and they were there.

We would visit and they were there.

They were there. Same house, same furniture, same town, same people.

They were there.

Until one of them wasn’t.

I’ll never forget the day I received the phone call telling me my grandmother was gone.

I’d recently moved about an hour from her, and all she’d talked about was coming to visit.

She never got the chance.

We thought surely my grandfather wouldn’t make it long without her.

The first year, he had a heart attack on the day she died.

But now, it’s been almost a decade.

He’s lived alone with little to no help.

The man is immortal, we always said.

Except, he’s not.

Yesterday, I received a phone call that he’d had a heart attack.

He’d been taken to a hospital near me.

I jumped in the car to see him.

Because of Covid, we haven’t visited in a few months.

So when I walked into the hospital room, I couldn’t believe how old my grandfather looked.

He was not my Radio Joe. He was just a shell.

My strong and funny grandfather couldn’t go to the bathroom and he needed my help.

With no shame, he took off his gown. He was in that much pain. He was that desperate.

I immediately jumped into to caretaker mode without a second thought. This was my grandfather. I’d once needed him to help me, and now he needed me.

With the nurse’s help, we got him to use the bathroom. She laid him back down, and I remained.

We talked for almost two hours.

I asked questions about his childhood, his early marriage, his family.

He told me funny stories about my Italian relatives, all twelve of the “originals,” we always called them.

It was a good visit.

When it was time for me to head home, I kissed the top of his forehead.

We said our I love yous. Only God knows if it was the last time.

And as I walked to my car, I thought about being a little girl, how fast it had all flown by.

You blink and your life is halfway over.

I thought about a conversation I had with my mother-in-law the other day, where she said she hoped she had “ten good years” left.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to get to the “end,” and to know it’s coming faster than you ever imagined.

But here’s the thing: we’re all actually at the end, every second of every day.

We never know when we might draw our last breath.

This year has made us all realize that a little more, I think.

So while I have that breath, I plan to use it wisely.

Forgetting the old…

Putting on the new…

Loving my neighbor…

Caring for the widow and orphan…

Loving my Earth…

Respecting my elders…

Honoring my parents…

Valuing my life and the blessings I’ve been given.

If you ask me, sacrificial love looks a whole lot like real love, true love, lasting love.

The kind of love that remembers the little girl who once thought of her grandfather as immortal.

And chooses to believe she will see them both, little girl, strong man, again.

Have you lost a loved one? How did it make you feel? Did you realize anything about life that you didn’t know before? I’d love to hear from you.

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sacrificial love month to milestone

Bible verse from 1 peter 4:8 monthtomilestones.com

What Else, but Love?

“…the greatest of these is love…” 1st Corinthians 13:13

One of my favorite things to do in the morning is to grab my coffee and computer, my Bible and my journal, and watch the sunrise from the second-story deck of my split-level home.

My backyard is full of trees, and the birds and crickets begin their early-morning singing promptly at 5 am.

The sun these days doesn’t rise until 6:15 or so, and in the meantime, I light my citronella candles (to keep those pesky mosquitos away), and I talk to my Creator as I watch my dogs stalk the neighbors’ yard (because to them, my neighbors–some of the nicest people you’ll meet–are the enemy).

The sun rises perfectly every morning, just to the left of my line of vision, through a small clearing in the trees.

In the winter, when the leaves are dead and the trees are bare, I can see the sun more clearly, and it shines more brightly.

But in the summer, I pay less attention to the sun because the rays throw such a brilliance on the greenery around me, I’m stunned by the beauty of my yard and less focused on the sun itself.

This morning it occurred to me that my walk with God is a lot like the sun rising.

When times are good, I seem to be more focused on what I have, what’s going well and what I want more of. I still see God, but I’m not as connected to Him as I am to the gifts He’s giving me.

But when times are bad, when my life feels dead, I see Him more clearly. Even in times when it seems like I’ve lost His vision or I can’t hear Him, my focus on finding Him is larger than my focus on what I have.

The strange thing is, the same sun is there, “rising” or “setting” to us, though in its fixed position, we only call it that. We’re the ones moving, not the sun.

Native American quote on nature- by monthtomilestones.com

In the same way, I don’t believe God hides. The Creator is always there, always in His fixed position, though we move. We lose our focus, or we gain new insight, we change our mind, or we decide maybe we were okay all along.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my views on love. How we love, who we love, what love even means.

I believe God is love. Love is creating. Love is remaining. Love is choosing.

One of the biggest objections I have to taking the Bible literally is the idea some people hold that God has created an entire group of people as “vessels of wrath,” which in most of Christianity means people he ordained to burn in hell forever.

I’m sorry, but what man would willingly choose to put his trust or faith in a God who creates human beings just to burn them for eternity?

We should really sit with that. I don’t think Christians give enough thought to their beliefs about an eternal hell.

For example, there’s a statistic somewhere that says something to the effect of, 62% of Americans believe in a literal eternal hell, but only 1% believes they’re going there.

So basically, people who believe in hell, believe it was created for someone else.

Convenient, huh?

And among those people, many of them profess to be Christian.

So here’s what I don’t get: If we call ourselves Christ-followers, then it would flow that our greatest act would be to follow Jesus.

And if Jesus’ greatest commandment was: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and Love your neighbor as yourself” (which he called equal–in other words, you can’t have one without the other), then…

Are we really following the commandment of God? I mean, if we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, and we truly believe there will be people burning in hell for all eternity…

Then, shouldn’t we be dropping every single thing on earth to make sure this doesn’t happen?

But we don’t.

And I have a theory as to why:

Deep down, none of us really believes in a literal hell.

We want to. It would certainly make sense that the bad people would go to hell and the good people to heaven, right?

Or, when speaking Christianese, those that God chose will go to Heaven, but those that God rejected would go to hell…

Or, those that put their faith in Christ would share in his glory while entire people groups who don’t know Christ will burn for eternity…

It’s easy to surface-level believe those things, right?

But it’s quite another to really sit in that belief and picture it in your mind.

Human beings…burning…for eternity.

Where’s the love in that?

Believe what you will. But as for me and my household, we’re going to choose love.

The love that redeems all, conquers all, renews all.

The love that finds the Jewish man on the side of the road, and, even being the bad Samaritan, cares for him, carries him, and pays his debts.

The love that bashes in temples, tears down cathedrals and hangs dead things like sin on a cross.

The love that comes back and says, “I choose you.” Forever.

As I sat and watched my sun rise this morning, I thought, “I could be totally wrong about this, but I’m willing to take my chance on redeeming love.”

I’m willing to love those that certain Christian groups tell me not to.

I’m willing to love those that certain Christian groups support, even when I don’t.

I’m willing to love those who look different, talk different and believe different.

I’m willing to love when I’m tired of loving and don’t really want to love again.

I’m willing to love when I don’t understand, when I need to sit down, when I need to speak.

Before the sun peeked through the trees, I said to God, “I know this house won’t be here someday.”

Because they all fall.

“I know I won’t be here one day.”

Because we all die.

“I know that America might not exist one day.”

Because kingdoms crumble.

“I know that I will be a faded memory to someone, someday.”

Because we forget.

So let me go; let my house go, my people go, my country go, knowing that I left behind a legacy of love.

For love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)

How are your views on Christianity and the love of God changing? I’d love to hear from you.

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Bible verse from 1 peter 4:8 monthtomilestones.com