Friday, October 30, 2009

Homebound

I’m a homebody anyway, but something about a windy, rainy fall day makes me want to light a fire, wrap up in a cuddly fleece, and read an escape novel with a cup of hot chocolate. 

I have always said that spring is my favorite season.  Each day grows warmer, and the snow melts away.  Green things start to grow and flourish, and it seems as if hope is a tangible presence in the air.

I like summer, but it always seems like everyone’s playing when I have to work.  To be indoors seems almost unbearable when the sun shines warm, and fluffy white clouds float over swaying green trees. 

Although winter is my least favorite season, it can be breathtakingly beautiful, when snow outlines dark leafless trees and covers the landscape in a tranquil white blanket.

This year, however, I’m gaining a new appreciation for autumn.  The colors of the trees have been incredible this year- brilliant golds, scarlets, and tangerines, blended with layers of green and chocolate browns.  The weather has included wonderfully warm days touching the 70s, one morning dusted with snow flakes,  a few days of blustery winds, and many rainy days and nights.  It makes life pleasantly unpredictable.

Will my preferences for the seasons change?  I don’t know.  Maybe as a grow older I am learning to appreciate the little things about the seasons and other markers of the passage of time.  Some day, I’ll just be a sentimental old fool.  And that’s okay.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Carrie’s Prayer

You’ve probably heard of The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Or perhaps you’ve heard St. Theresa’s prayer:

May today there be peace within.
May you trust your highest power that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into our bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of you.

Or maybe the Prayer of St. Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

I’ve decided I need to create my own prayer that will remind me what is important:

God, help me to focus on You and Your Word.

Help me to lay down my fears and hopes

At the foot of the cross

And see them through Your eyes,

Within the framework of Your plan.

Help me to see beyond today’s frustrations

To see the hurts and needs of others.

And the good in every situation.

Help me open my eyes and ears

To the movement of Your Holy Spirit.

Let me be clay in the Master’s hands.

Here am I, send me!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Midnight Screams

“If I scream, will you come to my room?”

The first time my son asked me this question, I said “no.”  He had awakened early due to a bad dream and my husband and I were trying to get him to go back to bed.  I didn’t want to encourage him to scream to get my attention.  In the past, he has yelled “mommy, Mommy, MOMMY!” until I am able to physically respond to him, which can take some doing in the wee hours of the morning.  I wanted him to learn to come to me when he wanted me.

The second time my son asked me the same question, it was before he went to bed.  I finally realized what he was asking.  He didn’t want permission to yell for me in the middle of the night.  He wanted to know that if he was overcome with fear of the darkness and the shadows of nightmares, and he called out to me, that I would come to him.  Whether he needed me or not, he wanted to know that I would be there.  Only when I answered in the affirmative did he have the courage to return to bed alone. 

As Providence would have it, I read the 71st psalm just this week.  Verse 12 says, “Be not far from me, O God; come quickly, O my God, to help me.”  The psalmist, too, was afraid, apparently for his life, and called out to his Heavenly Parent.  “When I scream, will you come to me?”

The Bible says that when we call to God, He will come (Jeremiah 29:12). Unlike me, He doesn’t worry about the manner we call-  whether it is a scream, a cry, a whisper, or an inward groaning.  He doesn’t want us to be afraid.  He wants us to rest in the assurance that He will take care of us, and knows what is best for us. 

It’s almost 7:00 now, and my son has slept through the night.  He didn’t need me to be there for him this time, even though his call would waken me from the deepest slumber.  If he asks me again tonight, whether I will come when he screams, I will assure him that I will come to him.  I don’t want him to be afraid.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Classification or Beautification

If I never see another leaf again, it will be too soon.

My daughter finished her leaf identification project today- the one that was assigned almost 3 weeks ago.  Yes, if my parents are reading this they are shaking their heads- I, too, have procrastinated practically from the crib. 

Of course, she needed help figuring out which leaves were lobed and which ones had pennant-like veins, and whether the edges were smooth or had teeth.  I think I’ve visited every tree identification site on the web, and my poor old book I used when I was a kid is falling apart.

I actually remembered some stuff, too.  My favorite leaves are from the tulip tree, with it’s unique V on the top.  I also like the sassafras leaves, because they look like mittens.  Aspens are neat too, they appear to turn colors when they blow in the wind. 

On second thought, I will miss the leaves on the trees when they’ve all fallen off and the horizon is lined with bare branches.  In helping with the project, I was fascinated with the great variety of trees, even in this regional area.  Each species has a uniquely shaped leaf, unique flowers, fruit, and bark.  This time of year they have unique colors as well. 

The differences serve little practical purpose, outside of providing fruits and nuts to eat.  So why would God take the trouble to create such infinite variety and design?

I think He did it just for His children.  I think He knew we would enjoy the glittering aspen, the brilliant red maple, the mighty white oak.  Just like the rest of His creation, He stretched His cosmic paintbrush across the sky just for our pleasure. 

On third thought, I am looking forward to the drive to church tomorrow, because the road leading to the church is lined with brilliantly colored trees, and I intend to enjoy God’s handiwork.  

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

To Dream or To Be

According to dictionary.com, a writer is 1) a person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., esp. as an occupation or profession; an author or journalist; 2) a clerk, scribe, or the like; 3)
a person who commits his or her thoughts, ideas, etc., to writing: an expert letter writer; 4) (in a piece of writing) the author (used as a circumlocution for “I,” “me,” “my,” etc.): The writer wishes to state….; 5) a person who writes or is able to write: a writer in script.

My goal is to be a writer as a defined in number 1.  It’s really hard to imagine getting to that point when it feels like a thousand things are competing for my time and my energy.  Every success guru will tell you that the only way to reach your goals is being single-minded and persevering to the end.

My dilemma is that I am honestly more concerned about being a good wife, mother (sister, daughter, friend, youth leader, community member, etc.) and following God’s will than being a writer.  I believe I can love others and write, I just can’t write while I’m doing laundry, earning a living, and helping my kids figure out what to wear for zoo day. 

I do appreciate that lately many people have taken my ambition seriously, and given me some great subjects for putting on paper (or computer screen, as it were). 

I’m an impatient person, and as a good friend of mine likes to say, “If it’s meant to be, it will happen.”  It may not be in my timetable, but if I trust that God has designed me for a purpose, I have to trust He’ll get me where He wants me. 

So, for now, I’m a definition number 3.  I may be so for a long time.  As long as you are a reader (defined as a person who reads) I will continue to write.  As Marie Curie said, “Life is not easy for any of us.  But what of that?  We must have perseverance and above all confidence is ourselves.  We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.”

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Not So Deep Thoughts

I am a very observant person- when I am intentional about it anyway. 

For example, I saw two people wearing white socks with their thong flip flops today.  One was a teenage girl; one was an adult male.  I know people love their flip flops, but what lengths will they go to wear them year round?  Isn’t that a bit uncomfortable and inconvenient?  Who is going to be the first person to invent the mitten sock, with a place for the big toe, to be compatible with your most stylish flip flops?

I also saw a cat chase a squirrel.  Cats definitely have an advantage over dogs in catching a squirrel.  They’re more stealthy and sneaky.  I think this cat would have caught the squirrel if it felt like climbing the tree.  Cats are also very particular about what they will and won’t do. 

I also realized that when you start in the basement, the fourth floor is a lot more stairs than you expect.

It took a friend to point out that the reason I was exhausted enough to nap after work today was probably due to a weekend of helping another friend move.  That didn’t stop her from running a killer yoga class though.  Ouch!!!  Milk and cookies are the only cure for a class like that.

Nothing draws more attention to yourself than arriving late to a meeting.  Nothing makes the meeting seem super short than when you arrive late and it ends early. 

You probably shouldn’t order a sandwich if you don’t know what it is, even if it looks good in the picture.  It’s supposed to look good.  They figure you’re hungry and a sucker for an enlarged picture of a sub sandwich stuffed with mystery meat.  If anyone knows what an Italian BMT is, I’d be happy to find out.

Weather prediction for tomorrow:  cold.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Difficulty Seeing

I have severe myopia.  I’m very nearsighted.  I can’t see the numbers on my cell phone unless they’re inches from my face.  I always have an extra pair of contacts and an extra pair of glasses because if I don’t have one of the two, I’m practically helpless, even going from the bedroom to the bathroom.

Some days I have spiritual myopia.  All I can see is the moment by moment frustrations of life:  the child who cannot find a matching pair of shoes, the other child who insists her field trip money be turned in today, the pants that aren’t dry after an hour in the dryer, the scratchy throat that won’t go away, the endless stream of tasks that interrupt what I try to get done at work, the late lunch break, the junk food dinner, the leaderless scout meeting, the mountain of laundry in the basement…

Where’s God in all this?  Unfortunately the only prayers I managed today were, “help me Lord!” and a prayer of safety for a friend embarking on a cross country journey in a moving van with a preschooler and a dog. 

The Bible says to seek His kingdom first (Matthew 6:33).  Just like I put my glasses on before I even get out of bed, if I had put on my spiritual glasses, looking to God before looking at my to do list, maybe my day would have turned out differently.  The circumstances may have been the same, but I would have been different.  I would have been able to see my day through God’s eyes, and it wouldn’t have appeared as gray as the cold, cloudy October day. 

Tomorrow, even though the day will start earlier than normal, I’m going to remember to put on my spiritual glasses, and try to remember how insignificant life’s frustrations are in the grand scheme of all eternity.  And I made sure my son put his shoes by the door.  

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pursuit of Happiness

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is what the Declaration of Independence designated as ”inalienable rights.”

Somehow, over the past 200 plus years, people have taken this to mean that they have the right to expect happiness in life.

As Malcolm Muggeridge, a 20th century British journalist and satirist, said, “There is something ridiculous and even quite indecent in an individual claiming to be happy… The pursuit of happiness… is without any question the most [foolish] which could possibly be undertaken. This lamentable phrase “the pursuit of happiness” is responsible for a good part of the ills and miseries of the modern world.”

Ironically, the higher your expectations for happiness, the more likely you are to be disappointed, and less likely to be happy! You’ve met that individual who believes he or she deserves to be taken care of or made happy, whether that applies to government funding, parental support, or a significant other. These people are the most miserable in the world, because no person or entity is going to meet their impossible expectations, nor should they.

The key to happiness may be in lowering expectations and not pursuing it at all. I know that most of my frustrations in life come from things not happening the way I think they should. Children are not supposed to get sick. Buttons are not supposed to come off when you’re getting dressed. Debit cards are not supposed to get lost. Young people are not supposed to die.

The reality of life is that sometimes stuff happens. In fact, in most people’s lives, a lot of stuff happens on a daily basis. As my dad reminded me numerous times, “Life’s not fair.” When you understand that life’s not meant to be happy all the time, you can take the moments of life as they come, enjoying what is good, and embracing sorrow, frustration, and fear as an opportunity to grow and to encourage others along life’s journey.

I choose not to pursue happiness as an ultimate goal. I choose to discover happiness in life’s precious treasures along the way.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Trust Me

It was one of those mornings.  I could not pull myself out of bed, then I could not pull myself away from the morning news.  My husband was very concerned with with the status of his tribe on his computer game.  My son interpreted “put your socks on” to mean “do a somersault over the chair.”  My daughter thought she had an abscessed tooth and was obsessed with the fact we had not turned the permission slips for the after school club on time.

I didn’t even have time to shower.  I signed the permission slips, called my mom to provide transportation, and wrote a note for the bus driver.  I put my leather dress shoes on (which went really well with my plaid pajama pants), grabbed a bag of flavored rice cakes that would suffice for breakfast, and hurried my kids into the minivan.

I drove to the school where my kids get on a school bus to another school.  We sat in the van with the heat on until the bus rounded the corner.  As I yanked open the van door (the automatic button isn’t working) I saw a reflection of myself in the van window.  Bespectacled, with hair that hadn’t seen a brush for 24 hours, I couldn’t believe I was out in public. 

My son jumped out of the van and into the path of an oncoming vehicle in the parking lot.  “Watch for cars!”  I shouted.  I made sure they made it to the door of the bus, only to hear my daughter shouting that my son left his backpack in the van (again).  I looked.  No backpack.  Apparently he never grabbed it from the house.  I told him to get on the school bus.

As I spent a quick 13 minutes getting ready for work, drove to work, and arrived late for back-to-back meetings, my daughter was texting me to bring my son’s backpack to the school.  When I checked my phone I had two calls from the school, letting me know how worried my daughter was that her brother wasn’t going to be able to go the club without his permission slip and the bus driver already had a note and how was he going to get home? 

I faxed the permission slip to the school office, asking the secretary to assure my daughter that all was well.  My daughter is always concerned that things aren’t going to be done the way they should be done.  Sometimes I wonder if she remembers that I’m the mom!

I think God looks at us the same way when we worry and fret over all the details of our lives, worrying about what might happen or what might not happen.  In the same way my daughter had trouble trusting that I could take care of the situation, sometimes I forget to trust my needs, desires, health, and lives to God.  He probably throws His hands in the air and shakes His head, like I did.  “Why doesn’t she trust me to take care of things?  I’m God.” 

Monday, October 5, 2009

Study of Motherhood

I’ve always been the kind of person who is secretly harder on myself than anyone else could ever be.  I don’t talk about it because no one wants to hear someone beat up on themselves.

I’m starting to learn that everything happens for a purpose, and all things happen in season.  Five years ago I was devastated that I was not given the opportunity to work in full time ministry.  A wise pastor suggested that then, when my children were 1 and 3, I had a different kind of ministry.  As a tried and true women’s libber, I had a hard time accepting that I could be called to such an ordinary, everyday job as motherhood. 

As my children grow, I am learning to love and accept them for the wonderful people they are becoming.  I am seeing how I influence them, with good habits and not so good habits.  I can’t imagine a more noble calling than motherhood.

Yet, I wish I could be supermom.  I wish I could pack nutritious lunches and walk to the bus stop every day.  I wish I could have creative parties for them and all their friends.  I wish I could have a clean and organized house with a craft area and a whole children’s library. 

So back to my learning curve.  I can’t do it all.  I have to walk a tightrope between my health and growth and the well-being of my family.  Sometimes I have to sacrifice sleep, or food, or a clean house, to take care of them, or just be with them.  Sometimes I have to get some alone time, or I will not be a good mommy.

And I won’t ever figure it out completely.  Each day brings new challenges, new opportunities to become a better person, new ways to grow as a mom.  Sometimes I manage; sometimes I fail.  By the grace of God, I pray that in the end, I’ll have provided a lot of love, fond memories, and a sturdy foundation to build on.