Archive for July, 2009

29
Jul
09

Life is Steadfast

My daughters make me miss my grandma. She was an amazing woman who always had time to share something sweet with me. In those moments she told me what it was like to live through the depression, how she felt when her husband built her a house in town – away from the farm, and how she cared for four children by herself after he passed. Then she would tell stories about life on a Minnesota farm and she’d even pass on the stories her parents told of their journey from Norway to that very Minnesota farm. Nobody could accuse my grandma of being rich, yet anyone who spent an afternoon with her came away knowing something about the richness that life holds. My grandma understood, above all, about the twists and turns of life and how to make the most of the few things that remain constant. Like children. She would have been just “tickled” to see my girls.

Even as a little girl, I understood the wisdom my grandma had earned. She shared what I was ready for and I appreciated what I could. My mom looked to her grandma the same way. She was quick to dispense with great advice and engaging stories and the small tidbits that made my mom think things out for herself. I remember being hesitant to say too much to my great grandma because she always knew what motivated me and that scared me just a little. Now I think she would be a much needed mirror for my soul.

Many cultures recognize this. They revere their elderly and are honored to care for them with respect and adoration; but Americans seem to have a somewhat different view. We weigh the value of a life against the cost of sustaining it. We consider whether it is worth caring for the elderly and if their quality of life justifies such care. Then, as we pursue our busy lives, we consider where to put them so they will be out of the way.

With the elderly neatly tucked away, we are forced to find counsel in sources we consider relevant to our lives. We have turned our backs on Grandma’s years of life experience for the more appealing package of Tyra Banks, which begs the question, when did we begin to equate beauty with wisdom? We hang on Madonna’s every word, wait with bated breath for Brad Pitt to speak, and take Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental advice as law. We call their voices relevant in a world foreign to our grandmothers. We are so wrapped up in the image that we shut our grandmothers out, refusing to look at the soul-mirrors they hold.

That soul-mirror just may tell us we are faltering, reinforcing the voice calling out from the backs of our minds. I know that the only thing that would impress my departed grandparents and great-grandparents is my character. There is nothing material that can impress someone who survived the Great Depression. There is no vacation or even party that would impress a woman whose fingers bled from her chores on the farm, the chores she did before her children woke up and she made them breakfast. And I can just imagine how these departed people would shake their heads at my morning road rage, which reminds us just how easily we forget our character as we carry on with the busyness of “keeping up.”

As we fear the opinions of generations refined by hardship, it is not hard to imagine that we can find comfort accepting “non-advice.” That is, the pleasure that comes from watching Jerry Springer and his guests, knowing that we are not that bad yet. We ourselves have turned our worlds upside down with this thinking. We say that we cannot get away from the trappings of the world, yet we consistently invite these trappings into our living rooms, bed rooms, and even our children’s rooms. TV has given us the visual entertainment that we crave, with none of the admonition we fear. Programmers are certain to avoid anything that may convict or cause discomfort, so we watch beautiful people living lives we covet and slowly but surely, our priorities turn inside-out. Grandma is sent away to a nursing home and we are free from burden, not the burden of care, but the burden of introspection. With Grandma away, we are free to pursue these lives of the rich and famous regardless of cost. Unfortunately, worldly pursuits will always leave us wanting, for as vast as they are, they are finite so somebody keeps changing the goal, just to keep us interested. It is defeating. To find fulfillment, we must remain steadfast in character and priority, following the legacy of the generations before us.

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11
Jul
09

Naivety in Disguise

She was a little high school cheerleader when we first met. I was about to trust her with the life of my child for about eight hours. My firstborn survived the eight hours and I found myself inviting this little cheerleader in more and more often. Soon I had two children and she had graduated high school. Before I knew it, my two children and I were going to her college graduation. Then she left to go to grad school. Then, in an excited instant message, we got the news…”I’m getting married!”

Unlike her peers, this precious pom-pom shaker had never really dated, something I found strange because she was so adorable. News of an upcoming marriage was somewhat startling. Over the years, though, I had learned to trust this girl with more than my children. She grew into a pillar of strength and wisdom. I knew that this man she met must be something special if she was willing to offer her life to him. Then I got the rest of the story, the kind of story that reminds us what is good and what is right.

On Easter, she was cooking dinner alone for 12 friends and said that she missed Mark and all the good times they used to have in the kitchen. I immediately panicked, concerned that this man had broken her precious heart. I was completely wrong. “We have decided that we cannot be alone until the wedding,” she confided. I will paraphrase and say that she explained by saying they could no longer keep their hands off each other, so they would not be alone until they become husband and wife. Both of these young people had made a commitment years ago to remain chaste until marriage and they fully intended to honor each other in that.

Oddly, abstinence has become controvercial over the years. Even more oddly, we parents, educators, and authority figures have all but given up the fight. When did something so precious as pure love become not worth fighting for?

I was in no way chaste before becoming a wife and I do not feel hypocritical for wanting better for this generation. The pain and suffering wrought by my previous escapades still shows up today. Most recently when the boy I handed my virginity to showed up as a potential FaceBook friend and he is really a stranger to me – a stranger who has had the privilege of seeing me naked. My entire life changed my first year in college when I was kissing the man of my dreams. After being together for years, he was the one I was sure I would marry and he definitely had my heart. Until this moment. Wrapped in each other, he whispered, “I wish I were first. I wish you hadn’t have done this already.” I knew what I had lost at that very moment. Everything. He and I did not get married. From that very moment I knew that no matter how much he loved me, he would always see me differently than I looked at him.

Luckily, I was still able to marry a wonderful man, but there are scars from this previous life. We essentially married into an adulterous situation. There was jealousy. There was fear. There were comparisons and threats. Hovering over all of this was a shaky level of commitment. Mark and Cassie have already done more to prove their commitment for each other than my husband and I had after 10 years of marriage. They have proven that they are willing to sacrifice for the good of their family, even now when it only numbers the two of them. These two have shown that they can work through the very first issue a married couple faces with level heads and loving motivation. That sets a high standard for the care of a marriage and immediately elevates it to the priority it should be.

My daughter has taken a purity pledge and through her I have seen aspects of this that had never even occurred to me. It is a display of lifetime commitment to a marriage that has not yet begun. It is respect for a spouse who has not yet arrived on scene. Perhaps most interesting and selfless is the concern it shows for others. It is concern for the future wives of discarded boyfriends, a statement that she wants them to have the same opportunity for purity that she has reserved for herself. I had never considered abstinence as a way to show deference to one’s peers, but it most definitely is. It is a more subtle version of not taking a bite out of every Hershey Bar at the checkout line so the person who is willing to sacrifice the .68 can have the whole thing.

This is good. When did we forget what is good and decide to settle for less so easily? I do not want my daughters to be naive about sex. I don’t think that they are. I know that they are not, in fact. But I really don’t want them to be naive about life. Unfortunately, nobody would have called the teenaged version of me naive. I daresay, though, that I most definitely was.

Oh – and congratulations to Mark and Cassie on not only the new life you began today, but on the profound blessing you have managed to offer to one another.




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