Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Siren's Call of the Unappreciated

Now, I Know It’s Not Just Me…
The other night I lay in bed, wondering how things had spiraled out of control so quickly.  We’d pulled into the garage, tired but satisfied with the day.  It really had been full and wonderful and we were all plain tuckered out and ready to hit the hay.  Then somehow the day veered off course and words collided with sharp and jagged edges, hearts hardened and harsh words were exchanged, and now our hearts beat bruised and forlorn.  Sometimes, I’m afraid we do allow the sun to go down without resolving our conflicts, hoping that the night’s rest will cool tempers and refresh our better natures.  I tried talking it through, but eventually just gave up.  After kisses goodnight, cool and distant, I retreated to my waiting tub.  Discouraged, frustrated, and put out, I slid into my bath to vent some steam to my Comforter.  With one wailing thought I began my lament.  “God, I don’t deserve this.”  

Following close behind came the others, easily coupling with my dispirited soul.  I had provided so much, sacrificed and lavishly shared, thought of others first, spent myself on their behalf, lifted them up, stepped up, reached out, given, given, and given some more. 


Even been there?  Of course you have; every single one of us has.  We all know exactly what we have done “out of the generosity, goodness, and the huge expanse of our ever-lovin-hearts,” don’t we?  We are quite aware of how we have faithfully and tirelessly served our husbands, children, family, friends, perhaps co-workers, and probably even strangers.  We know the slights and stumbles of others that we have stoically born and allowed to pass by without a murmur or complaint – each and every one.  The world’s got your back with messages that tell you you’re “worth it”, you “deserve a break today”, don’t buy a “lame” car, “follow your heart”, and “it’s all about me.”  Honestly, Generation Me is as old as Cain and Abel... older.

How many myriads of relationships have been dashed upon the siren’s rocks of The Unappreciated?  Marriages torn apart because of irreconcilable differences, grudges nursed and fed for years, prejudices fortified into fortress-like stature, unforgiveness nourished and kept alive in all its fullness, all because we cannot bear to let go and lose.  Yet how is it possible that we can all be that person who lived the day so saint-like, and yet our little worlds feel so banged up by everyone else sometimes?  How indeed? 

By the time I climbed up into bed, I’d been dealt with.  Lying on my back, I relaxed my hands and held them open.  “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.”  Jim Elliot, my brother, whispered in my ear this sweet reminder.

I know what I truly don’t deserve, and what I’ve been given – the saving knowledge and grace of the redeemed.  When the Lord called me to our girls, it just so happened that I was away on a weekend Women’s Retreat with ladies from my church.  In very creative fashion, He used a number of scriptures concerning both adoption and feet to speak to me, and then pursued me in an extremely direct and personal way to know His will for us to be family.  In Romans 10 He says, “How then will they call on Him in Whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Good News!’

As His child, I am one who is sent to preach the Good News.  Willingly lashed to the mast, may the song of my heart, mind, soul, and lips be one that drowns out that of both my selfish nature and the world. In humility and thanks, and only then, can I possibly sing.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Call of Simplicity

Although my parents weren't born early enough to experience the challenges of the Great Depression, I guess their parents' forebearance was strong enough to press a deep imprint which carried through to their grandchildren.  At least, I've always attributed my frugal elementary tendencies at least in part to that period in my family's history.  My mother, raising six children born within a nine year span, and on a military salary, taught us to live by the tried and true maxim of 'waste not - want not,'  My father had grown up on a farm in South Dakota, and no doubt the hard scrapping that had to be done were experiences that indelibly marked him as a man and a father.  His years in the service added to the follow-up of sayings stamped upon my consciousness, 'shape up or ship out' and 'almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.'

My list of books I am currently reading (and boy am I way in over my head, tackling at least a dozen right now), hold titles and subject matter that reflect my strident search and reach for finding simplicity within the hours of my days.  It isn't that my life is all that hectic and crazy; I consciously work at maintaining a balance and deliberately choosing what we add to our schedule.  So I'm not that classic overachiever who has so many plates spinning and falls into bed exhausted, only to get up and do it again the next day.  Mentally, I can hear my family laughing over that misperception that anyone might every have of me.  My search for simplicity is born of something else.

Recently a friend asked me what kind of simplicity it is I am drawn to.  I'm afraid I wasn't able to respond with a clear or, for lack of a better word, 'simple' answer.  I have since spent time considering just what is it that I am looking and longing for.

It is the color white?  Or cooking from scratch?  Canning my own food?  Throwing out what I haven't used in the past six months?  Or whatever I have double of?  Is it stockpiling up on deals with coupons? Meditating or finding my inner voice?  Is it an as yet undiscovered secret longing that will fulfill me?  Is it only buying classic clothes that can be easily mixed and matched?  Organic food, cosmetics, or home cleaning products? Hanging out laundry to dry on a clothesline?  Cutting out the junk?  Eliminating toxins?  Turning off the television, the computer, and even the radio?  Making time for me?  For others? Adding in gardening, subtracting driving? Routine visits to an isolated monastery?

The smile that is on my face as I've made this list reflects the humor I find in some of its items, and the pleasure that others evoke in considering... particularly that secluded monastery.

Simplicity is paring down to what is most honest, true, and glorifying.  It's holding on tenderly and thankfully to my blessings, yet with a loose grip.  It's fighting fiercely with noble and godly purity when called to, whether that is with my wayward self, the seduction of sin, or the one who seeks to devour. It's remembering that the days slide by as through an hourglass, and I cannot get them back.  It's turning back in repentance when I've blown it, and doing my best to make it right.  It's recognizing what is not mine.  It's giving up what does not matter.  It's pouring myself out over and over and over again. It's living fully as if this moment might be my last.  It's taking care of what I am given while I still have it.  
And it's being truly ready when I breathe my last breath.

Oh God, lead me in the paths of simple righteousness for Your name's sake.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Blessed With Arms To Serve

Last weekend I got a fortuitous treat.  A friend from church emailed me rather last minute, asking if my girls and I could babysit her children for her.  She has a two-year old (almost three), and five month old twins.  Although I was tired, I said 'yes,' of course.  Not out of an inability to say 'no', but more than anything because I saw in this an answer to prayer.  One of my girls is a natural nurturer, but for the other, this is an area in which I have asked the Lord to provide opportunities for work in her heart.  And so I made coffee and off we went.  

Once we'd arrived, the Mommy took me through all the things we might expect in a typical evening with her little ones, her sincere and tender love for them shown through so endearingly.  I nodded and appreciated the sweetness that I recognized and understood.  Her words and manner brought out in me remembrances.  You know how the certain smells and sights and sounds evoke the sensibilities of things past?  Her mother's care in speech and delight warmed the recollections of years gone by for me when my own were small enough to hold in my arms.

Inside?  Well inside, I was jumping up and down.  I couldn't wait to hold those babies, whisper and sing to them, talk and encourage smiles and gurgles from them.  My girls and I waved as the parents left for their evening of celebration with a family member.  Then I shut the door and embraced my role of fairy godmother, rejoicing in merry-making of my own.  I talked my daughters through the care of these little ones, seeking to inspire and encourage the love of children in them.  I changed diapers, fed bottles, rocked babies (oh, what pleasure there is in a rocking chair!), soothed them, read stories, sang songs, and relished the joy of this task.   It was a triple gift - for my friend a night away, for my daughters an opportunity to experience babysitting, and for me... well, I think I received more out of the evening than anyone else, and as we drove home I sighed happily in deep contentment, expressing quiet thanks in my heart.

Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us daily. ~Sally Koch~

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Play Again (the Film)

We are fortunate that our local community college has reserved a showing of this film.  It states the obvious - that children are way too hooked into media in all its various forms these days, but I don't know that this message is being significantly heard out there in the world.  As I read blogs, I see a lot of Mommys of young ones are writing them.  I'm a Mommy to middles and olders, and believe me when I tell you the Media Monster is something that you need to watch out for.

Not all of us can move out to the country.  Not everyone can homeschool.  Not everyone has easy access to the green things of this world.  But we have a responsibility to be attentive to what kinds of things are shaping our children, and we have the power to do something about it.  I don't know that parents really understand that so much these days.  Maybe this film will give them a clue of what is going on (I mean no disrespect by that choice of words), and a nudge to make some changes.  I sincerely hope so.

We're going to see this as a family.  Check this link to see if it will be showing in your area, or what you can do about getting it shown.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Watermelon Loafers

I've been saving these little cuties to throw into my box of empty pretties for quite some time.  I have absolutely NO idea what they'd go with... but I just love them!

Ok, I actually do know exactly what I'd pair them with, although I'm sure my suggestion will induce eye rolls galore.  I also happen to love overalls.  Put me in a white tee, denim overalls rolled up a bit, and these watermelon tennies, and call me Spring.  

I've had a love affair with quirky shoes that aren't the run-of-the-mill-wear ever since I began buying my own clothes with my babysitting money.  The thing is... well, have you ever had a penchant for something that even you find a bit embarrassing?  My taste in shoes is something like that.  I pick up a pair with an unabashed coo of delight - and realize they look like something a hobbit would wear - and yet (gulp) that's my style! 

When my Dad retired from the Navy, we wound up settling in New Mexico.  I'd had my heart set on the Pacific Northwest with a view of the blue-grey ocean and the greens of maples, spruce, and alder trees; the charm of red mesas took a long time in captivating me.  Durango, Colorado was less than an hour away, however, and my little earth muffin heart found sweet comfort within its quaint, hippie atmosphere.  One high school shoe purchase was made in one of those offbeat, whimsical stores on Main Street during a weekend run up to Durango.  I recall with fondness a soft sort of desert boot of unique design, trimmed at the ankles in fur.  I sat in my English class, quite content with my quiet individuality.  The hick sitting nearby gave me the once over.  "Step on a rabbit on your way to school today?"  Redneck humor - so devastatingly clever.  

Anyway, I survived that petty belittlement with nothing but a clearly lasting memory of it thirty years later.  And I still adore funky, unconventional, comfort-driven footwear.  

I just can't help myself.