Monday, September 22, 2008

This Side of Heaven

“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”

~ Matthew 18:10 (Amp)

Recently my daughter-in-law Lisa sent me a link to a video of a speech given by a high school senior named Soeren Paulumbo. If you have the time to view it, I think you will find it thought-provoking. So if you don’t like to be provoked, then I wouldn’t watch it. His speech starts out talking about a black man who is washing windows in the school and some white girls walk by and tell him he “missed a spot.” His speech leads into a discussion about his twelve-year old sister who is mentally handicapped. “She will never learn to hate or judge,” he shares. “And she receives more joy from watching a bubble float into the sky than most of us experience in a lifetime.” The speech has received a great deal of attention, and for good reason. Soeren was even asked to deliver his speech to the Illinois State Senate. If you’re interested in viewing it, the web address is:

Having a granddaughter with Down Syndrome has opened my eyes and my heart and my world. I have learned so much from Katelyn and from others whom we’ve met along this journey. One of those people is a friend I went to junior high school with in Hudson, Wisconsin. I never knew until recently that Barb had a sister with Down Syndrome. Leslie was child number twelve in their family of thirteen.

Barb has a wonderful way with words. With her permission, I would like to share the following excerpts from her writings:

“With such a large family as mine, Leslie has been a true gift to all of us. From the day she was born my family dynamics changed. My parents became more patient, our inner circle a little tighter, and most importantly, our love stronger within. . . . She is still the light of our lives. She is now 42 years old and doing well. She lives with my Mom and has a job at the local grocery store that she loves. She is a friend to all that know her . . . I am very grateful that I have been raised with her in my life, and my children as adults now, embrace her as well. It was probably very difficult for my parents at the time of her birth, but the rewards have been many throughout all of our lives.

“I sometimes describe it to others as a ‘gift’ and other times a ‘blessing’ to have Leslie in my life. But really it is life changing. Once you have exposure to such a gift and blessing, your whole life changes and the way you look at things is somehow different in many ways. I didn’t fully grasp how much I had gained by having a sibling with a disability until I was an adult. And, then when I had my own children and saw what a difference it made in how I parented and how my children grew up, it was truly astonishing. I sometimes think my gratitude of life stems from my large family and most especially growing up with Leslie. All of my Mom’s grandchildren have so embraced Leslie and have made her their ‘special aunt’. She is the godmother of one of my nieces, and was just named one of my other niece’s ‘most influential adults’ in her high school graduation program. When the rest of us read it at Emily’s graduation, there wasn’t a dry eye in our row. We have all benefited from her presence, and the lessons continue as our family grows.”

Leslie with niece Emily


A father of four from Pennsylvania writes a blog about everyday life with a daughter who has Down Syndrome. ( He wrote in part:

“Down Syndrome does not define who Amanda is; Amanda defines what Down Syndrome is. Amanda is my loving, beautiful, funny, inspirational daughter, who has a wonderful future ahead of her. If there was ever a button to push or a switch to flick that would make Amanda typical, I wouldn’t touch it, ever. Amanda is perfect just the way she is.

“I can truly say that our outlook of life and the things that we used to consider important has certainly been altered. Things that we used to take for granted and some of life's simplicities are more important than some of its complexities, if that makes any sense . . . Because of her, I will be a better husband, father, son, brother and friend. I know that I am the one that is supposed to teach her how to live, but she has taught me so much already.”


Angels are defined in the Catholic Encyclopedia as “any agent God sends forth to execute His purposes.” So if you ever get the privilege of meeting one of these special angels – embrace it. It may be as close to God any of us will ever get this side of Heaven.

“So go my little angel and take
The greatest gift I can bestow
You’re the special angel few people
Ever have the honor to know.”

~ A Special Angel (Author Unknown)

“But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

~ Matthew 19:14

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Better Together

“Two are better than one. . . If one falls down, his friend can help him up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

~ Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV)

Last week I wrote about the dangers involved in making demands or placing expectations on those we love. The price tag is extremely high, so we need to ask ourselves: Is getting my way really all that important?

Here is a poem my friend Pat Bartlett wrote on the subject:

Expectation or Acceptance

By Patricia Kohls Barrett

Expectations can destroy any relationship
From good friendships to wedded bliss
If you expect fulfillment of your desires
The joy from “freely given” you might miss

Expectation is only centered on self
It says, “What can you give to please me?”
True love is self-giving and accepting
Seeks to please the other, is “expecting” free

If you aren’t given what you expect
Disappointment and displeasure rush in
Expressed with sad voice and actions
Deterring one whose heart you would win

What’s the worth of a coerced treat,
That has the same value of a solicited bribe?
It might give some momentary pleasure
But warm fondness it does not describe

How do you respond when feeling forced?
Do you feel endearment and friendly regard?
Doesn’t it build a wedge that shoves apart,
That warmth and attachment retard?

It’s good to communicate what you favor
Strong ties come from sharing who you are
Helps each one relate to the other
Builds devotion and closeness above par

This sharing includes careful listening
About a loved one’s favorite pastime
When the enthusiasm you do not share
But your buddy’s feelings you hold prime

Each is loved and accepted as unique
With a personal giving from the heart
True love appreciates individual traits
Gratefulness and acceptance impart

Unselfish love receives graciously
What is given with love and devotion
As a piece of the giver’s kind heart
Conveyed with sincere fond emotion

Selfish expectations stifles and destroys
Centering on “other” brings warmth and growth
Accepts what is given, looks for ways to please
Bringing happiness and fulfillment for both

“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.”

~ I Peter 3:8

It’s important to recognize the benefits of flexibility and freedom in our relationships.

“Truly loving another means letting go of all expectations. It means full acceptance, even celebration of another’s personhood.”

~ Author Unknown

Recently I emailed the above quote to Keen. His response, along with our brief exchange follows:

Keen: What a great way to say I love you --- no expectations, no control, just love.

Eileen: Amen. Just love and full support. Knowing someone is - and always will be - in your corner.

Keen: I am always in your corner.

Eileen: Thank you, Keen. And I'll always be in yours.

I love you.

Who I Am
(and who I’m not)

By Eileen Umbehr

I may not meet the expectations
Of everyone in my life
I may not win a big award
For best mother, friend or wife

But all I can do
Is what I can
And all I can be
Is who I am

So even though you may not understand
Why I live my life as I do
Please try to accept me for who I am
And I will do the same for you

Then at the end of the day
I hope to hear Him say –
“Well done.”

“Tolerance and celebration of individual differences is the fire that fuels lasting love.” ~ Tom Hannah

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Deadly Expectations

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” ~ Proverbs 14:1 (NIV)

The title of this week’s column sounds like the name of a made-for-television movie. But when I say, “Deadly Expectations,” I’m referring to the expectations individuals have for one another. Not just in marriage or partner relationships, but children to parents, parents to children and friends to friends.

In Catherine Marshall’s book, Something More, she shares a letter she received from an eighteen-year-old girl who was raised in a hypercritical family. “The critical faculties my parents gave me,” she wrote, “have made me more demanding than I should be, given me standards that the real, flawed world can’t live up to . . . .”

I have learned (over and over again) that placing unrealistic expectations on another person is one of the most dangerous mistakes any of us can make. Why? Because when we do, we set ourselves up for disappointment and the other person up for failure. Furthermore, once you verbalize your expectation, it makes it hard to back off or compromise. You have spoken! And you want to be heard and respected! “Yes, Master. Your wish is my command.” The only response you want to hear when you say “Jump” is “How high?” But since most of us aren’t in a master-servant relationship with our spouses, partners, parents, children or friends, none of the participants in these various relationships should be expected to meet our expectations without question or input from them.

The problem with expectations is that they are usually presented in the form of a mandate or edict, rather than a request or suggestion. This is a recipe for disaster. How do I know? Because I’ve made this mistake many times myself. I decide that I’ve been put out or put upon long enough and now it’s my turn to demand that a few things go my way. However, when the person you’re dealing with (a/k/a your victim) decides to “rebel” or refuses to “cooperate” with your demands, you become ripe for developing a serious case of bitterness, resentment and anger. From there, you usually end up on Self-Pity Drive which is really not a Drive at all but rather a DEAD END – and you are left sitting all alone on your self-made throne with no loyal subjects in sight.

At this point in your failed attempt to rule the world (and everyone in it), you may be tempted to issue an ultimatum: “Do what I say – or else!” However, once someone lays down the gauntlet and tells everyone within earshot how it’s going to be, it becomes extremely difficult for them to swallow their pride and take it all back. What I’m trying to say is that it is much better not to lay down the gauntlet in the first place. To make compliance with your wishes a litmus test for love is just wrong. “If you love me, you’ll do what I say,” is NOT love because it doesn’t leave any room for individuality or difference of opinion or personal freedom. Your opinion and your feelings are not the alpha and the omega – the beginning and the end. If you’re in a relationship with another person, your feelings are only part of the equation. You also have to consider how the other person feels and allow them the freedom to react to your announcement. That’s where the art of compromise comes into play.

“Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.” ~ Proverbs 17:14

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I think it’s important for both parties in a relationship to express how they feel, but you have to keep in mind that the other person is under no obligation (whatsoever) to agree with you or comply with your request. And if you’re going to get mad at or shun everyone who disagrees with you, then you’re going to end up with a very small circle of friends.

I'd start walking your way
You'd start walking mine
We'd meet in the middle
'Neath that old Georgia pine
We'd gain a lot of ground
'Cause we'd both give a little
And their ain't no road too long
When you meet in the middle

Meet in the Middle ~ recorded by Diamond Rio

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Critical Change

“But refuse – shut your mind against, have nothing to do with – trifling (ill-informed, unedifying, stupid) controversies over ignorant questionings, for you know that they foster strife and breed quarrels.”
~ II Timothy 2:23

“Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their boots; that way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their boots.”

Has it ever dawned on you that anyone who will criticize another person and gossip about them behind their back, will probably criticize you and gossip behind your back? Author Agnes Sanford once referred to super criticalness as “a breaking of the bonds of love.”

I agree. It is extremely difficult to love someone while you’re judging them.

“Try to show as much compassion as your Father does. Never criticize or condemn – or it will come back on you.” ~ Luke 6:36 (TLB)

In addition, engaging in negativity only brings you down and colors your entire outlook.

“All the days of the desponding afflicted are made evil [by anxious thoughts and foreboding], but he who has a glad heart has a continual feast [regardless of circumstances].”~ Proverbs 15:15

Author Catherine Marshall put it this way: “Criticalness leads to discontent. Discontent expels appreciation and gratitude.”

“A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken.” ~ Proverbs 15:13

Here’s a poem I wrote based on my personal experience, which explains why I’m a firm believer that short visits are best.

“Let your foot seldom be in your neighbor's house, lest he become tired of you and hate you.” ~ Proverbs 25:17 (Amp)

Family Re-unions?
By Eileen Umbehr

Here’s the thing about family reunions
At least what I’ve observed
When everyone gets together
Things can become quite absurd

At first the initial hugs
And greetings are exchanged
“How are you?” “I am fine.”
“My how you have changed!”

But then the whole environment
Seems to go downhill from there
The tongues they start a clickin’
“Can you believe that hair?”

The longer you’re together
The more negativity abounds
Deep-seated anger and jealousy
Contaminate the air and the ground

Then Cousin A and Cousin B
Exchange some subtle jabs
And before you know it the feud expands
To include their moms and dads

Auntie Em and Uncle Fred
In unison shake their heads
“Sis put on weight – Junior pierced his ears
And nephew’s off his meds!”

As time goes on, things don’t improve
But instead go from bad to worse
Leaving the attendees wonderin’
“Is this reunion a blessing or curse?”

As the saying goes, (you’ve heard this before),
Familiarity breeds contempt
Just like fish, after two or three days
Family members start to stank!

For even though you love them
Absence makes the heart grow fonder
Perhaps emails and phone calls alone
Would make the bonds grow stronger!

“Better is a dry morsel with quietness, than a house full of feasting with strife.” ~ Proverbs 17:1