Archive for December, 2008

13
Dec
08

Mirror, Mirror in the Crib…

Since I have been a mother, I have made an obvious assumption that God gave us family as an earthly expression of His unconditional love.  I noticed that when the girls were unselfish, I wanted to give them more.  When they made good decisions, I trusted them with more.  It felt like I learned more and more about the Lord my Father with each passing day and I have been grateful for His love and His example. 

So I thought I had it all figured out and things were good.  But then, God felt like I should learn a little more.  He loves that.  It’s time for the annual gift binge, complicated this year by the addition of my teen daughter’s social life.  Now it’s the annual gift and party binge from reindeer hell!  After spending yet another evening driving her to yet another party and waiting in yet another parking lot to pick her up, I thought about how much I love the words “thank you.”  There is a lot of thinking time in the parking lots I frequent, so I spent some time on this, mostly because I knew I wasn’t likely to hear it.  I love to hear “thank you.”  It is usually followed by “I love you” and is all around great.  It makes me so happy to hear and I am so concerned when I don’t, when favors from me or others are taken for granted. 

Aha!  If God gave us a picture of His love when he gave us a family, then he handed us a mirror when our children were born.  I began to wonder, sitting in that parking lot, if God loves to hear “thank you” from us as much as I love to hear it from my children.  The Bible mentions gratitude hundreds of times.  He must love it.  Like our children, there is a reason we should offer thanks.  The minute we realize we have something to be thankful for, our troubles miraculously shrink.  Gratitude makes us want to share.  It makes us happy and it brings true joy.

So I wondered if God was holding up a mirror for me, a reminder that I don’t remember to thank Him for the ride – ever – but I sure complain when it is bumpy.  Or crowded.  Or lonely.

When Daughter Number One was in kindergarten, I got The Call from her teacher.  She had done something awful and was more rude than remorseful.  My first reaction was exactly what the teacher expected, “Where would she pick up something like that?”  The teacher was silent long enough for me to realize exactly where she picked it up.  Number One showed me all kinds of bad habits and unacceptable behaviors I had, so I have known about the mirror.  The problem is, I thought the mirror was mine.  Fourteen years later, I understand that the mirror, like everything else, is the Lord’s.

Advertisements
07
Dec
08

Magic Rediscovered

You know when you fall asleep on the couch and you are perfectly comfortable until suddenly you’re freezing, but not enough that you wake up and do something about it?  If you are lucky, you can reach a blanket in your sleep.  If you’re even luckier, someone will come and cover you up so you can snuggle back into your pleasant dream.  Well, that’s Christmas.  For years I have been freezing, but I finally found a blanket. 

The freeze started in the Barbie aisle at Target on Black Friday.  I realized that the years of Barbies and other dolls were long gone, yet I hadn’t once captured the magic that was the promise of the season.  It was not for lack of effort.  Every year I began shopping on Black Friday and finished on Christmas Eve, rushing from work to home to mall to boutique to big box store seeking perfection tied up with a bow.  I swore it off this year.  I resolved to cut the shopping back long before the economy tanked but I had no expectation that I would be able to stand my ground against the four color glossy ads.

But today the reinforcements came and helped put up our tree.  It was the first time we have managed to do it as a family from start to finish.  In true Norman Rockwell style, we listened to festive music, laughed, and reminisced all day.  Once the stockings were hung and the halls were decked, we continued to giggle around the breakfast bar where we snacked and teased my older daughter about her new love (she has her very first boyfriend).  Then, the cheese fest continued as we played Christmas carols and sang by the tree.  When we finally modelled the last tree skirt and untangled the little one from the lights, we cuddled up to watch “Elf.”  Then, we topped the evening off by tucking the little lovelies into the empty space under the tree where they are now sound asleep.  Even the older one at fourteen thrilled a the idea of sleeping under the tree.  It’s empty there right now, but particularly beautiful.

That empty space under the tree is exactly what I wanted for Christmas.  I never would have found it at Target.  I don’t know how I missed it for 14 years, but I’m grateful that I finally got it in the nick of time.  My normal routine is to decorate without involvement from the girls so I can get it done quickly and get out to find perfection tied up with a bow.  All that hunting and the Christmas magic I longed for was right here at home.  It was even waiting for me but I was way too busy.  It concerns me that I was convinced I had made my loved ones a priority this season because of the time I spent shopping for all the perfect gifts.  Surprisingly, the gifts were the true priority.  That’s where my time went.  Giving is lovely, but it is completely different from loving.  And despite what the retailers have said, loving is the true magic of the season.

06
Dec
08

Circling With the Sharks

sharks1From time to time when I take a shower, something triggers a thought of a great white shark and I am paralyzed – truly paralyzed – with fear.  This fear is something I have carried since I was a small child.  It kept me from learning to swim, from hanging out at the lake with my friends, and from spending summers diving into our local river.  It kept me from swimming pools, water slides, and has provided some interesting ocean memories.  At Sea World, my friends thought it would help if I visited the shark aquarium.  I passed out and spent the afternoon at the medic station.  No Shamu for me.

This has followed me into adulthood, on a trip to Mexico, and into my downstairs bathroom that I painted a beautiful blue and therefore, avoid.  I think it’s the bathroom that pushed me over the edge.  It’s gorgeous, copied from a Pottery Barn catalog, and I really love it.  Being unable to use it because of a childish fear seemed a little ridiculous.  Well, according to my husband, it was way ridiculous.  Shark Week came on the Discovery Channel and he thought it would be healthy if I watched it.  Not so healthy when he had to stay in the bathroom to keep me occupied while I showered (totally G rated, it just sounded bad).

So I considered my blue bathroom.  And Shark Week.  And I wondered how in the world I could be this frightened at this point in my life. 

I caught myself.

I became suspicious that this fear had disappeared a long time ago; I was just holding onto it like an old letter jacket.  A piece of what I was then.  This was a piece of my identity that really didn’t matter any more, except to me.  Fearing great fish defined me, but only in my own imagination. 

So, we visited an aquarium.  I tested my theory and was dismayed to find that it must have been correct because walking through a school of swimming sharks was surprisingly easy.  Beautiful, in fact, and somewhat surreal.  Of course, this was after my screams drew a crowd when I caught a foot on the conveyor belt and thought I was being hauled off as dinner – baby steps.

What else do we wear around like old letter jackets?  Things that don’t matter at all to life today, but define our perception.  In my first post I taked about all those feelings I carried for George and Lou.  I’m pretty sure they were swimming with the sharks in my shower, defining me in most unflattering terms.  Letting go of my fears and my loves had a lot less to do with the sharks than it had to do with letting go of a me that has been gone for a very long time.  Youth’s promise is so majestic.  It is built on the reckless hope that rests so precariously on romance.  All the recklessness is tempered by apprehension.  That promise is powerful.  That promise honed by recklessness and apprehension is intoxicating.  As such, it is so hard to let go but if we hang on, the sharks are circling and eventually they just may close in.

03
Dec
08

Habitual Heroism

We are all heroes on the inside, just waiting for the moment that hero can run free, blazing courage across the darkness.  We lie in wait, expecting that moment to come, knowing we have what it takes.  I have never doubted my own heroism.  Ever.  Until recently.  The other evening during dinner a story came on the radio about a man who interfered in a violent situation.  Suddenly the reality of that hero moment crashed in on my delusion.  I surprised my husband by wondering aloud if I could do such a thing.  He quickly answered that there was no question – he’d step in and he didn’t understand why I was so hesitant.  I know something, though.  We wait for these moments, but these moments are actually waiting on us.  Every day we have opportunities to be heroic.  They are small opportunities, sure, but they are there.  We have opportunities to look strangers in the eye and smile, sincerely, even if that person wants to talk.  We have an opportunity to set aside our anticipated TV show, or blog entry, or gaming adventure, to take and extra minute and really talk to our children.  We have opportunities to keep the latest office gossip to ourselves and not betray a trust.  As Americans, we always have an opportunity to stand up for what is good and just and right.  To be a hero in the big moments, I believe that a foundation has to be laid in habit. 

During the Mumbai tragedy and standoff, the media was interviewing those who escaped.  I DO NOT fault them for escaping.  I am grateful that some did.  However, for a brief moment I paused and wondered if there could have been a different outcome had they stood in solidarity.  Had they found a way to lead a rebellion or lead others to safety.  I don’t know.  I wasn’t there, but I think that for those people, that was the moment they had waited for.  They did the smart thing, but I’m unsure if it would be called heroic.  Did I mention that I do not think less of them for it?  It is just food for thought.  It is so easy to talk about shattering evil, guns blazing, youth’s Tae Kwan Do skills honed, but when there is only time to react, I don’t think “hero” is the default unless it is practiced. 

I mentioned that I always thought I was heroic, but now I’m looking over my life.  I shamefully confess that I have a cousin I love like a sister who may not spend eternity in Heaven because I don’t have the nerve to risk our relationship.  The same goes for many of my friends.  Does this diminish my faith?  It very well may.  I donate money and some times a little time to bake sale-type fund raisers to fight human trafficking, but even in the face of such grotesque evil, I sit in my living room and wish there was something I could do.  There is plenty I can do.  The world is a better place because of people who figured out what to do, then made it a priority.  As long as we sit in our living rooms and wish for instruction, evil persists.  It grows.  It is time to go find those moments and build them into a way of life.

01
Dec
08

Stolen Magic

img_1741Black Friday is over.  Retailers are steeling themselves for the financial fallout as their lowered expectations are met.  So is my family.  Last Christmas, as happened every Christmas before, we left Grandma’s house wedged into the car among enough new belongings to start a second household.  It was bittersweet.  On one hand, the girls couldn’t wait to get home and unpack their treasures.  On the other hand, we all knew how hard it was to find the right gifts for children, friends, and grandparents because we have everything under the sun and we know that so many don’t.  My husband and I knew then, when our then-six-year-old unwrapped her second MP3 player, that a line had been crossed and it may be difficult to even find the other side, much less get to it. 

So we determined to cut back.  So did my grandparents.  So did my parents.  So did my blessed princesses, but it was not voluntary.

Amid my resolve to teach my children the true joy of this season, I am shocked that I have been knocked over by eight tiny reindeer.  For the first time in years, I did not get a JC Penny snowglobe, the prize of a true Black Friday veteran.  Even if I wasn’t getting anyone a sweater, I still stood in line just to prove that I was a soldier prepared to brave the crowds at 5:00 am even after downing half a bottle of wine and the leftovers of a meal that never ended.  From Penny’s, I would hit Circuit City.  Then Wal-Mart for the essentials.  Then Target.  Then Old Navy, Bed Bath & Beyond.  Then Pier One, TJ Maxx, and finally the mall to visit Macy’s and the Hallmark Store.  Of course, I would visit Bath & Body Works, then Claire’s for stocking stuffers.  Sixteen hours later, I would be jubilant and nearly done shopping, except for the few items I had to wait out until last minute clearances. 

This year, I worked on Black Friday.  Then, I came home to play a rolicking game of Monopoly with my daughters, a rare treat to play such a long game.  Saturday we went out together to round up any remaining bargains, then came home for family movie night.  I enjoyed every minute, but it was another bittersweet moment.  Every turn of the aisle in Target unearthed a little more holiday melancholy.  First, I miss my snowglobe.  There will be an empty “2008” spot on my console table.  But of course, there is so much more.  

I have fallen for a tremendous, damaging, and tragic lie.  All this time, I have searched Penny’s Circuit City, Wal-Mart, Target (I nearly found it there), and all the others for magic.  I even thought I found it there and I think I convinced my daughters they can find it there, too.  Each year, I try desperately to create the magical scenes of ecstatic children opening beautifully wrapped treasures beside a perfectly lit tree.  The tree was always perfect, thanks to my mother, but that was it.  The harder I tried, the bigger the failure.  I have books and books of holiday stories that I planned to read to these girls by the light of the Christmas tree.  It never happened.  Most of the bindings haven’t been cracked.  My older daughter is 14 and we have uncracked bindings.  I have a 14 year old daughter who has never baked Christmas cookies.  I am not sure she actually knows that a cookie cutter is to make cookies, not to embelish packages for her teachers.  My friends and family have never gotten a Christmas card from me.  No family pictures.  I am never home before dark on a weekend during the holidays – unless there is a party later.  However, as much as I love a Christmas party, I have never filled my own home with Christmas guests – no time.  The retailers have gotten all of my holiday time.  I am guessing that they did not miss my Christmas cards.  My great great aunt who always asks after me and my children probably does, though.

Somehow the very retailers who promise all the magic and joy our credit cards can buy stole that from me.  I have had my suspicions, but since my escape from Black Friday, I know it’s true.  It hit home walking the Target aisles.  Even with my daughters in tow, we skipped the doll aisle, the Barbie aisle, and all of the toys.  The only thing they are interested in are grown-up electronics and CD’s.  I envied the women clustered around the new dollhouses and mourned for a time that has long gone.  My greatest hope is that they take the time to ENJOY this magic, rather than BUYING it.  

My girls have the big dollhouse, the American Girls, and every My Little Pony made, but there was no delighted squealing when they opened them.  They are not spoiled rotten – yet – I think we have caught it in time.  But I promised them magical Christmases.  According to everything they see, that meant that they would be getting these things and it ruined the surprise.  This year, they WILL be surprised with stories of a miracle that means eternal life with a very best friend.  They will be surprised to learn that cookies can come from an oven instead of boxes.  And they just may think it’s fun to show their relatives they are growing up by sending out Christmas cards and pictures.  We will have a housefull of friends for a Christmas dinner and I am sure the girls will be surprised that we have time to sip hot chocolate by the lights of the tree.   If I get my Christmas wish, my girls will discover that the magic of the holiday comes not from any big box retailer; it comes from the family the Lord gave us and the love He shares through His son.  Sorry Target – we already have MP3 players.




What’s here

SuzyJ’s Tweets

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Advertisements