Claimed

I heard a story on the radio a few months ago about a woman named Maris Blechner. Her first son died just after childbirth, then she adopted a daughter. Ten months later, she delivered a son, and then she adopted another daughter a few years after that. Believe it or not, people would tactlessly tell Maris things like, “I suppose you love your biological child the best. Surely the one who shares your blood is your favorite.” At the time, she wasn’t able to form a reply to their insensitive remarks.

 

Her three surviving children all got married and had children of their own. In fact, they each gave birth to a daughter within a few months of each other. Maris would watch her granddaughters play together, and she saw how these cousins who shared no blood relations loved each other without reservation. They were family. The rest was just details.

 

After opening her own adoption agency in Queens, NY, Maris eventually formed an answer to those narrow-minded questions around adoption: “There’s no such thing as ‘as much as’ when it comes to love. Love isn’t measurable,” Maris would say. “You claim your child and it’s forever. We claim our adopted children exactly the same way birth parents claim their children.”

 

That word—claim—stuck with me long after hearing her answer. Besides being in a similar situation with both biological children and an adopted son, I can feel an extra measure of weight in that word. To be claimed by someone you love and trust, to be received by them wholeheartedly, is the most freeing experience. For instance, to know my husband claims me isn’t restraining to my freedom because I also claim him. And I don’t have to be anything particularly special, because this claim is forever.

 

If we can understand this unconditional form of love in human terms, it’s a little easier to begin to understand God’s love for us. We see it in 1 John 3.

 

“See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for he allows us to be called his children—think of it—and we really are! But since most people don’t know God, naturally they don’t understand that we are his children. Yes, dear friends, we are already God’s children, right now, and we can’t even imagine what it is going to be like later on. But we do know this, that when he comes we will be like him, as a result of seeing him as he really is.” (TLB)

 

With the start of a new year, choose to live like you are claimed, like you are valuable enough for someone to call you His own. Whether you have felt this level of love before or not, know that you have a heavenly Father who claims you as his child.

Be the gift

How did I end up sitting on this metal bench next to a Customer Service desk? I just wanted two $25 gift cards, but instead the cashier rang up one $50 card and one $0 card. After talking to three different employees while nearly sweating through my Christmas red sweater and with no time to rectify the mistake because I needed to pick up kids from school, I left with what I thought was the $50 card, only to discover while sitting in the carline and finally examining the receipt that it was the other one.

 

I dropped off my kids at home and drove back to the store. My parting instructions from management were: “If you want to change this, come back and ask for me, (insert Assistant Manager’s name here),” so that’s what I did. I didn’t want to get in that long December return/exchange line, so at first I wandered around looking for my assistant manager friend.

 

“Do you know ______?” I would ask vested employees, as if I were searching for a missing child. “Have you seen her?” Finally, I found one of the employees who had been a part of the original purchase, and she helped me find the correct member of management. And that’s why I’m sitting here now, waiting while she checks the store log to find which card has what. As shoppers walk past me, I wonder if they think I’ve been caught shoplifting and that’s why I’m sitting here with no bags and no buggy. That’s silly, I tell myself, why do you assume people think you’ve done something wrong?

 

Other than being a slight inconvenience, this is really not a big deal. It’ll be worked out and I’ll soon be on my merry way, so in the meantime I’ll sit and watch the busy afternoon foot traffic. In spite of the festive decorations and the countdown to Christmas, generally-speaking, people look tired. They look stressed. They look not-so-Christmas-Spirit-like. A mom just snapped at her young son as he wailed for something she wouldn’t buy him. There’s some tension over a bike return at the Customer Service desk. No one is yelling, but there is a cloud of disappointment lingering over the participants in the bike return dispute. Everyone in that line looks they’d rather be anywhere else doing anything else at that moment.

 

I’m suddenly aware of an aspect of Christmas I hadn’t considered before. We (me included) get so caught up with the buying and wrapping. We can easily become consumed with lists and costs. So what if I were the gift? Not that I don’t think we should give each other presents! I’m not suggesting we eliminate any opportunities to be generous and kind. But as I sit on this metal bench on this busy afternoon, I can choose to be the gift. Nothing material. Nothing to be bought. Nothing to be wrapped. My smile, my understanding, my attentiveness can be what this stressed-out group needs this afternoon.

 

When the assistant manager comes back with my loaded gift cards, I can be the gift of calmness without a trace of self-righteous anger. When I get home, I can be the gift of patience with my kids while I try to juggle helping with homework, making supper and getting kids to ball practice. Hopefully, if I keep looking for ways to be a gift to others, it will become my natural inclination, then it might become contagious. Imagine what a pile of presents we’d have if we all endeavored to be a gift!

Potluck

One of life’s greatest joys is a good old fashioned potluck supper. I have vivid memories of these meals in the various churches my family attended throughout my childhood.

 

As a young child, there were some women whose names I might not always remember, but I would know them by their signature homemade dishes. Their names might be Mrs. Smith or Mrs. Jones, but in my head they were “Mrs. Sourdough Bread” or “Mrs. Pistachio Jell-O Salad” or “Mrs. Lemon Squares.” Sometimes there were men with potluck specialties, too, such as “Mr. Bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken” or “Mr. Has His Own Soft Serve Ice Cream Machine.” Their contributions were just as welcome!

 

It’s comforting that in this ever-changing world, some things stay the same: Old men still make jokes, like “Thanks for making my plate!” when you approach holding a Styrofoam plate full of deliciousness you actually prepared for yourself. People still say, “I better get my dessert before everything good is gone,” just after setting their main course on the table, even though there’s plenty of desserts to go around. And sharing meals together—sharing the actual food you bring to the community tables and sharing the experience as you eat side-by-side—is still the best way to be a family.

 

Now that I’m the church lady bringing dishes to gatherings, I can appreciate the work put into these meals, and I often marvel at the variety. Crockpots full of soups and layered salads in glass trifle dishes, rows of pies and pans of brownies. Seasoned potluck organizers don’t worry what people will bring. These veterans of the Fellowship Meal know that it won’t be a table full of only fried chicken or only veggie trays or only chocolate chip cookies. They trust the attendees to bring their specialties, their best dishes, the food their own family prefers. As the people arrive, the food is laid out and…voila!…so much variety! Something for everyone!

 

The word potluck has evolved over time. Originally, it meant that a traveler was lucky to receive whatever was cooking in the pot at the home where he stopped for the night. Nothing special, just regular food. Now it means a communal meal where everyone brings something to contribute to the group. I like the second definition better and not just concerning food. I like the idea that people contribute what they have to share with everyone. Though a pan of brownies is delicious, if that’s all I’m eating it’s not much of a meal. But if you put together my brownies plus your pasta salad and her BBQ sandwiches and his potatoes chips (and the sweet tea…don’t forget the sweet tea), then we will have a great supper. It’s the same when we combine our gifts and talents.

 

It reminds me of the early church described in Acts 2: “And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything with each other,selling their possessions and dividing with those in need.They worshiped together regularly at the Temple each day, met in small groups in homes for Communion, and shared their meals with great joy and thankfulness,praising God.” (TLB)

 

This is the ultimate Potluck Supper—food and family, joyfulness and thankfulness.