Fluff and Stuff

In the mid-eighties to late nineties I was a decorator. My husband and I had our own version of Chip and Joanna Fixer Upper stories. He built and remodeled homes and I decorated. The kids went on a few of the job sites and enjoyed playing in the mounds of dirt, paint, or climbing on the structures. We had thought at one time the marketing events, business aspects, design and architectural elements would become something each child would gravitate to something within this family business. One of our jobs was a relative who loved the color pink. She wanted to find a pale pink, medium pink, and darker pink shade as her color palette.

Color and its symbolism holds some meaning for me. Pink is a positive color for love, sensitivity, and tenderness to name a few attributes of the color pink. During this overwhelming saturation in the color pink I was asked to head up the cotton candy booth for the school carnival. My husband picked up the cotton candy machine and the pink sugar that would become the puffy clouds of fluff and stuff floating through the air of my kitchen. We made hundreds of bags for the booth supply. We cleaned sticky residue of cotton candy off the walls, curtains, and kitchen table. The color pink invaded my days of a decorating project and school carnival for some time.

The beauty of this color did please our loved one as she finally had the home of her dreams with some shade of pink in every room. The palest shade of paint was called fluff and stuff and looked very close to the light pink haze of cotton candy hanging around my kitchen. Those days were demanding schedules for the balance of family, business, and charity fundraiser for a school.

Today I am a hospice chaplain with different demanding schedules of family, business of healthcare, and charity focus. In a meeting, a phrase caught my ear. “Let’s get to the bottom line of matters today. We don’t need any of the fluff and stuff about people’s stories.” There was that color name for the palest pink coming up from my memory bank of one of my own stories.

To be a holder of another’s story is more than fluff and stuff. There is something sacred in the act of being a witness, a spiritual director, and for many the last minister that will pray with them and for them. The symbolism of the color pink also reflects other characteristics. The words are faithfulness and beauty.

There is a responsibility to faithfulness in hearing the details of another person’s life stories. There is a beauty in the art of listening.  A person’s life stories is beyond the fluff and stuff that colors their perspectives or the sticky residue of the attributes that rests in unfinished business at the end of their days.

Let us be mindful of the stories that make up a life. Let us reflect on the symbolism and characteristics that inform us of who we are in the uniquely wonderfully made story of us. (Ps. 139: 14) Jesus encouraged and taught through parables and story.  He encouraged us to have ears that hear and eyes that see. (Luke 8:8) I pray we see the essence and nuances of all the shades and shadows, light and brilliance of our stories that make us up who we are and hear God’s unconditional love that desires to color our lives with Him.


Watch the Children Grow

Downton Abbey is an all-time favorite show of mine. When PBS did the special interview show with the actors there is a consensus of appreciation for the fans who ‘went bonkers’ for this show. I remain one of those fans. There are many lines in six season’s worth of this show that is memorable. One of those lines in the last season is when Cora tells her husband that she just wants to enjoy being around to watch the children grow.

This family of characters offer us a glimpse into a historical timeline of family dynamics and historical events. Following the angst of upstairs aristocratic society and downstairs support staff in positions no longer a part of the vocational norm in this historical timeline; I did marvel at the evolving inclusions to get to know one’s children, the letting go of children, and acceptance of imperfect siblings who made a way for each other in their hearts.

Mother Teresa is quoted on love of family, love of the hurting, love begins in the home, love is a paradox of hurt because of love and love until it hurts. Today, I am watching adult children take on the task of family life in the twenty first century and it is vastly different than the era of this PBS program. What does not change from generation to generation is the need for us to heed the main ingredient of love for another. Jesus said it was the one commandment I leave with you. (John 15:12)

What would the 21st century family dynamics look like if we actually practiced the art and spiritual wellness of loving one another in family life? What level of respect and rapport would change if we found ourselves serving one another in love rather than expecting to be served our way? Can ‘love’ change the hurt and harm done in generational patterns of family life? Isn’t love more than healthy boundaries, positivity of self-esteem building, and meeting basic needs? Isn’t love a part of sacrifice, nurture, and awareness? How do we define this four letter word of complexity?

It is my contemplation on the defining of love that had me hear those words jump off the dialogue of a beloved program I do love. How easy that word comes up in our daily language. I love you. I love dogs. I love ice cream. I love that color. I love that!  Does such love carry with it the love that Jesus commanded of us? Is it the same concept as Mother Teresa challenges us to consider in the doing of daily life with one another?

Another grandchild is about to join our family. Our son and daughter-in-law is about to welcome a son. He will be the sixth grand-one to join us. Without having met him, he is loved. There is mystery in love. This is something of God’s divine nature in welcoming new life into the world. There is hope in love. It will be fun to watch these grand-ones grow. But, what I will really enjoy watching is the children I birthed grow into an awareness of loving their own in every stage of doing life with their own deeper abiding love. For love is endless. Real love is unconditional even if the relationship requires some healthy conditions. I look forward to watching the children grow and learn the lessons love has to teach us all.