Thursday, December 20, 2007
One of my favorite Christmas songs has always been I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. Recently the song became even more meaningful to me when I learned the story behind its words, penned by the great American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
Longfellow started the 1860’s on top of the world. He was happily married, living with his wife and five children in a lovely home on the Cambridge River in Massachusetts. But in 1861, tragedy struck both the nation and the Longfellow family. The opening shots of the Civil War were fired on April 12th, and shortly after, Longfellow’s wife was fatally burned in an accident on July 10th. While melting a bar of sealing wax with a candle, a few drops fell on her dress and ignited, wrapping her in flames. Longfellow unsuccessfully attempted to extinguish the flames with a throw rug, and then frantically tried to smother them by throwing his arms around her. Unfortunately his wife died the next morning, and Longfellow was unable to attend her funeral, having suffered severe burns to his face and arms.The first Christmas after his wife’s death, Longfellow wrote in his journal, "How inexpressibly sad are all holidays." A year after the incident, he wrote, "I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace." Longfellow's journal entry for December 25th 1862 reads: "'A merry Christmas' say the children, but that is no more for me." Almost a year later, Longfellow received word that his oldest son, a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac, had suffered a severe bullet wound to the spine. The Christmas of 1863 was silent in Longfellow's journal.
But finally, on Christmas Day of 1864, he wrote the words of the poem, "Christmas Bells:”
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled alongThe unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!"
I love this poem because it is a reminder that no matter what we suffer, no matter how long we languish in trials and tribulations, we always have hope in Christ. He will bring peace to our lives, and someday, peace to the world.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Anyway, I do think society tells us to value material possessions and make sure we’re always a step ahead of our neighbors, and it’s only natural that we exhibit those values during the holidays. But I also think that everyone really wants so much more from Christmas, and it’s evident in the seasonal movies we’ve absorbed into our culture:
It’s a Wonderful Life: By seeing what it would have been like if he’d never been born, a man discovers that his life has meaning and purpose after all.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas: When the evil Grinch robs Whoville of all its holiday trimmings and presents, the community unites to discover that Christmas is really all about love.
Miracle on 34th Street: A hardened businesswoman overcomes her skepticism about Santa and decides to believe in the impossible.
A life with meaning, love as the greatest gift, and the hope to believe in miracles – these are the holiday themes we’ve embraced, that we watch over and over again, year after year. The ideals portrayed in these movies are what the world really wants Christmas to be all about. And ironically, Jesus came to make those very things possible.
So forget secularization. When it comes right down to it, I think society is actually desperate to put Christ back in Christmas. It just doesn’t know it.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Anyway, I heard a song on XM radio that made me realize I'm not alone in my thinking. I couldn't find a recording to link to, but here are the words:
My Dog Don't Know It's Christmas
by Scott Katz
My dog don't know when it's Christmas
Despite the gift-wrapped chew toys 'round the tree.
You got the dog-star up above, poodle skirts and puppy love,
But there ain't no canine Christianity.
He knows not to piddle on the carpet,
And he knows when he must go to the vet.
He understands a Milkbone and he comprehends a snow-cone,
Yeah, but Jesus is a concept he don't get.
My dog don't know when it’s Christmas.
How could any creature be so naive?
But despite his passivity, re: the nativity
If the lord was a shepherd, he'd believe.
Despite his proclivity to dis the nativity,
If the lord was a shepherd, he'd believe.
So, to all my friends and readers who lavish presents upon your pets at Christmas, I love you dearly and I say if you enjoy it, go right ahead and stuff your personalized dog stockings to the brim! Just make sure your dog doesn't tell my dog - I don't want him to get wise!
Saturday, December 1, 2007
Accuse me of blasphemy if you want, but I usually can’t stand going to church around Christmas time. Even though the story of Christ’s birth is probably the most powerful, world-changing passage of scripture ever recorded in any religion, pastors feel the need to put some sort of “creative” spin on it that usually annoys the crap out of me. So I end up sitting through an hour of cheese, I don’t learn anything, and somehow I’m completely unaffected by the birth of the Savior of the entire universe.
But last Sunday, I attended an absolutely amazing Christmas service. It was a paired down, straight-up discussion of the simple truth of Christmas. It managed to be both intellectually and emotionally stimulating. And it hit on a key point that doesn't seem to be particularly popular at this time of year: Christ’s birth means nothing without His death.
If you're like me and this is just the kind of service you've been waiting for, go here and click on “last week’s service” to watch it online. I promise it will be worth your while!
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Now, anyone who knows me will tell you that I am seriously handicapped in the kitchen. I want to be a good cook, but I always seem to run out of patience or get distracted. I do dumb stuff like leaving the flour out of a cake or forgetting to take cover off the stove eye before I turn it on. If there’s a way to screw something up, I’ll find it.
Not surprisingly, no one ever asks me to bring anything significant for Thanksgiving. This year, I’m in charge of rolls and tea, which I was directed to pick up at Publix. However, I was also told to bring a dessert if I felt like it, and I’ve decided I do! I am making a pumpkin spice bundt cake with orange glaze. Impressive, right?
If you know me, you’re probably thinking there’s no way on God’s green earth I’m going to pull this off. And honestly, I’d have to agree. I mean come on – for me, making dessert usually involves dumping a bag of M&Ms into a nice bowl. And I’m pretty sure the fact that I didn’t even own a bundt pan until this morning is a seriously bad omen.
But regardless, I’m going to give it a try. Ben has agreed to help (double-check) me, so I’ve got that going in my favor. And hey – if it doesn’t work, I’ve still got the rolls, tea, and a bag of M&Ms.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
The number of blogs focused specifically on being childfree is relatively small – a Google search only turns up about 15 or so. BUT, I wouldn’t even begin to try to estimate the number of childfree women who are out there blogging on a different topic.
Take me for example. I wouldn’t necessarily call End of The Tunnel a childfree blog, but everything I do write about is colored (or should I say purpled) by my decision not to have kids. Conversely, if I did have a child, I’m sure my writing would take on a different slant. Any parent will tell you that having a child affects every aspect of your life – it makes perfect sense that choosing not to have one would have quite an impact as well.
So, when I’m looking for new blogs to read, I tend to prefer those written by women who don’t have children. I just can’t relate to mothers very well, especially when the topic is religion, politics, education, career…ANYTHING! It’s not that I only want to read blogs about being chidfree, and I certainly don’t have anything against mothers who blog. Really I’m just like everyone else – I want to read a blog from someone who’s a little more like me.
And that’s where sites like BlogHer are supposed to come in. They have a large blogroll separated by topic, which should help you find likeminded writers. But when there is no category for women without children, where does that leave people like me? Invisible.
Anyway, that’s my take on the issue. I hope this campaign will make a difference, and if you are childfree, please take the time to visit Purple Women & Friends today and check out some of the other bloggers who have weighed in on this issue. And if you’re one of my readers who could care less about childfree stuff, thanks for making it to the end of this post. To reward you, I’ll tell you a funny story:
We were able to get excellent tickets for the Clemson vs. Boston College football game this weekend – 30 yard line, lower deck. However, the dog thought they looked tasty, so he ate them. Ben was able to wrench the tickets out of his mouth, but unfortunately the tear-away stubs came off, and the dog swallowed them. Ben is furious. If we can’t get into the game, a slightly naughty greyhound may be in need of a good home.
UPDATE: I took the mangled ticket remains down to Clemson, and they printed new ones for me. Apparently Bowman isn't the only dog for whom football tickets are a choice snack, because the lady who helped me said that mine were the second set of dog-chomped tickets she'd replaced this month. Anyway, Ben has made up with the dog and all is well. Go Tigers!
Thursday, November 1, 2007
One of the key Smurfs was named Jokey, and as the name suggests, he was constantly playing tricks on everyone. His favorite gag was to give the other Smurfs a “present,” which when opened would explode in their faces. The box was always the same – yellow with a big red ribbon.
As a child, I never understood why the Smurfs kept on accepting Jokey’s gifts. I mean come on – they ALWAYS exploded! Couldn’t the other Smurfs just learn their lesson and stop opening those things? But now as an adult I think maybe Jokey’s antics were the cartoon writers’ way of making a deeper statement.
How many people have you known who just keep going back to something that is harmful to them? I think about a girl I knew in high school who would sleep with a guy and feel horrible about herself afterwards. But then she’d go right back out and hook up with another guy, thinking it would somehow give her what she was looking on the next go-round. It invariably failed.
So why did my friend get caught in that loop, and why do we, even on a smaller day-to-day level, continue to do things that are bad for us? And more importantly, how do we get off the merry-go-round? I think Paul gives us the answer in Romans 7:18-25:
“I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway…I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
At age 15, I started my sophomore year of high school fairly confident in my ability to manage my life. I had chosen a good group of friends, family relations were going smoothly, and it was easy for me to get good grades. I had finally even found myself a boyfriend, and with that checked off the list, I didn’t think there was anything else I really needed. I was in control, and things were going exactly according to plan.
However, around Christmas that year, my plan started falling apart. My grandmother got sick, and my mom temporarily moved to Alabama to take care of her. I stepped in to pick up some of the slack at home, especially looking out for my little brother. It was a stressful time for the entire family, and I couldn’t do anything to make it better.
With the added stress at home, my honors classes also became overwhelming. I had been managing to hang on, but no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t get the grades I wanted.
To top it all off, one of my close friends decided I wasn’t a good person anymore. I have no idea what I did, and she wouldn’t tell me. But she started a smear campaign and tried to turn my other friends against me too. Then my boyfriend moved away, and it wasn’t long before he stopped calling. There was nothing I could do to hold on to either of them.
I ended that year feeling completely out of control, wondering how everything had so quickly slipped out of my grasp. I had no idea how to get back on track. Then out of the blue, my best friend Shannon called and asked if I would like to go on a Mission Trip with her church youth group to do Bible camps for kids. It wasn’t something I would typically do, but then again, my typical choices hadn’t been working out so well. So I figured I didn’t have anything to lose and signed on.
At the Bible camp, one of the kids took to me immediately. His parents were going through a nasty divorce, and he was very angry and bitter. He was desperate for comfort, and for some reason, he looked to me to provide it. I was totally overwhelmed - how could I help this kid, when I couldn’t even handle my own life? So I told him that God loved him, and I shared the Gospel with him as I understood it. And suddenly, for the first time, I knew it was all true.
I realized I needed to let God control my life, because He had a good plan for me. I was flooded with an immediate sense of peace like I had never felt before, and the rush of relief was incredible. From that moment, life was never the same again.
Now, even though I still like to be in control, it’s not such a driving need. I don't feel so much pressure about my decisions anymore because I have learned to trust God and allow Him to be my guide. These days, being out of control is a good thing!
So what’s your experience? I would love you to leave a comment and tell your story too. Maybe God has changed your life like He did mine, or maybe you’re one of the many seekers who visit this site and are still trying to figure it all out. Regardless of your situation, we all have something to learn from each other. If you’re not sure how to comment, it’s explained in this post. You can even be anonymous if you want. So take a chance and share!
Sunday, October 7, 2007
It all started off with a new chapter in our disagreement with the guy next door over dog poop. This has been an ongoing saga, of which I’ll spare you the details. Let’s just say I’m having a hard time loving my neighbor.
After church, we went to Pet Smart to buy some dog food, and our credit card wouldn’t go through. After an excruciating conversation with the Citibank customer no-service department, we discover that they have decided, without consulting us, to upgrade our account and cancel our old cards. They sent us new ones, which we apparently threw out with the fifty million other credit card offers we get each day. It wouldn’t have been such a big deal, except that of course, this particular card was the one we were using to automatically pay all our other bills.
Believe it or not, at this point, I was still hopeful of having at least a bubble afternoon. However, we had one more errand to run, and as we turned onto the main road I realized that the world was just not going to cut me a break today.
The street, probably the busiest in our city, was lined down both sides for at least a quarter of a mile with people holding up signs that said, “Abortion Kills Children.” Yep, the girl who wanted to spend the day pretending that the world was conflict-free found herself in the middle of a giant abortion protest. Yippee.
So finally I gave up, turned my brain back on, and checked out the scene. Several things stood out.
First of all, there were quite a few young children holding signs, which I found to be extremely disturbing. A 7-year-old boy shouldn’t even understand sex, much less abortion. There’s no way those kids could understand what they were doing. What kind of parent makes their child participate in something like that?
Secondly, I couldn’t tell what organization was sponsoring the protest. I’m sure it was some sort of church, but there was no info about that on any of the signs. It seemed kind of cowardly to me to stage such a bold demonstration but not own up to it.
But mainly, I just hated how it made me feel. It all seemed so self-righteous, and I felt that even though I’m not an advocate of abortion they’d probably condemn me just as harshly, because I would never stand beside them on the side of the road denouncing it either. I felt like I was in the middle of a drive-by judging.
So were any abortions prevented by the corridor of shame? I highly doubt it. But I do think at least one woman recognized the error of her ways today. As we sat at an intersection, I smiled as one of the protestors glanced furtively at her fellow demonstrators, shuffled a few feet away from the rest of them, and slowly covered her face with her sign.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Earlier this week I sort of got backed into a corner by people who wanted to convince me that God was a joke. I couldn’t refute their specific arguments, (maybe more Old Testament knowledge would have helped,) but what really shocked me was that even if their points were valid, I didn’t much care.
Christianity is one of the most real things I’ve ever experienced, but it’s also the most preposterous. It’s completely illogical, but somehow I know it’s right. There’s so much I don’t understand, yet I still have peace and confidence. Am I crazy, or is that just how God works?
I was feeling kind of down about the whole thing, until I came across Psalm 71:14-15 where David says,
"But as for me, I will always have hope. I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteousness, your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure.”I felt myself summed up in those verses. I really don’t know the true depth or measure of God’s character or His sacrifice, but that’s okay – I don’t have to understand everything. I still have hope and joy, and I keep on praising Him through any doubts that may arise. Maybe I am crazy, but I guess I’m in good company.
I would be very interested to hear how others handle it when Christianity gets overwhelming, and I would love to get a dialogue going. I know I can always use some support, and I bet I’m not the only one. Your comments are much appreciated!
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Frank was the quintessential mountain man. He mostly kept to himself, and was generally suspicious of other people. But as he warmed up to me, I found him to be a kind and generous man, quick with a joke and a smile. He was in his 60’s, but the sparkle behind his eyes made him seem much more lively and spry than his age would suggest. He called me “baby doll,” which always felt exactly like the term of endearment it was meant to be. I found him to be an all-around good guy.
Frank had not been successful in marriage, but he had several adult children with whom he remained close. He loved to spoil them, and there was nothing that good ol’ Dad wouldn’t take care of.
But one day, one of Frank’s sons decided to bring a fraudulent lawsuit against a company, claiming he had an accident for which they were responsible. Without any prior discussion, he involved his father in the case, saying Frank had witnessed the phony accident. By the time Frank found out what was happening, he was inextricably stuck in the case and could not avoid testifying.
When Frank got on the stand, he told the truth. He couldn’t help it – that’s just who he was. He knew that his honesty would likely cost him his son, but it was a chance he had to take. Frank was simply compelled to do the right thing.
A few months later, Frank’s daughter unexpectedly died. He was completely heartbroken. Of all his children, she was the one who simply loved him, never expecting anything but for him to love her in return. At her funeral, I discovered just how devastating Frank’s loss really was.
As the family filed down the center aisle into the chapel, I couldn’t spot Frank. After everyone was seated, I finally noticed him slip in inconspicuously through a side door and take a seat several rows back from the rest of the family. My eyes welled with tears as I realized what had happened.
Frank’s son had turned the entire family against him, except for his daughter who was now gone. He had lost everyone he ever loved, and there was no one to share his grief. He sat in his pew with head bowed and shoulders slumped, and the eyes that once held that mischievous sparkle were flat and empty. He was a broken man.
Frank’s story affects me deeply. This was a man who stood at a crossroads and took the difficult path, though he had everything to lose. I know that if he had lied he wouldn’t have been able to face himself in the mirror, but I wonder if it would have been worth it to keep his family. I wonder if the price he paid for integrity was just too high.
I lost track of Frank shortly after the death of his daughter, but I think about him often. I hold out hope that he has reconciled with his family, and that he won’t have to spend his last days alone. And I pray that if I’m ever in his shoes, I’ll have the courage to follow in his footsteps.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
For example, tonight I am relaxing in my den, enjoying an episode of Wheel of Fortune. No worries of anything icky popping up there, right?
But then it's commercial time, and an ad comes on for Serenity pads. No big deal - people need these things, and the commercials are generally discreet. There is a voice pitching the product, and there's this graphic of a field with a big daisy in it. Pretty typical. But then I take a closer look, and I notice - the petals of the flower are made of adult diapers! Big, white pads that unfortunate adults have to pee in. Do the people who need these things not already know what they look like? Do we really need to try to make them cute?
This commercial ranks right up there with the girl who plugs the hole in her date's rowboat with a tampon, and the cartoon bear who takes a crap on a tree and then discusses how much toilet paper it's going to take to wipe up. Who takes in these gross images and then thinks, "Oh boy - I gotta run right out and get me some of that."
Unfortunately, I think this yuck-fest is going to get worse before it gets better. Today we're listening to a philosophical discussion on the nuances of feminine odor, tomorrow I'll see some actor actually applying his Preparation H.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
I always planned to “grow old gracefully.” Let the gray hair and wrinkles come as they may – I’d take it all in stride with good humor, and embrace whatever face looked back at me in the mirror. Aging wouldn’t even be an issue.
Well, a few months ago I noticed the tiniest beginnings of lines around my mouth. That discovery immediately led to a more critical facial inspection, which revealed slight traces of lines around my eyes too. You have to understand, no one else would probably be able to detect even the smallest change - we’re talking miniscule lines here. But as I stood there looking in the mirror and puzzling over how this could have happened, I was suddenly hit with a stunning revelation:
“HOLY CRAP! I am going to get WRINKLES!!!!”Thoughts of growing old gracefully went out the window. I just wanted to go out and buy the best miracle cream I could find and take a bath in it. How could this be happening to me? I guess my philosophy was really more like, “If I grow old, I’ll do it gracefully.” I hadn’t accepted that the “if” was actually a “when.”
It didn’t take me long to calm down and return to rationality. But I was still a little bummed about the whole wrinkles thing, until this weekend.
I was watching a re-run of Extreme Makeover, where “ugly” people get major plastic surgery to correct what they consider to be their physical flaws. During her initial consultation, this woman told the plastic surgeon that she was looking forward to “never having wrinkles again.” However he was quick to correct her, explaining that wrinkles come from showing facial expression, and that they would eventually come back unless she never smiled or laughed again. That started me thinking.
My life has been filled with happiness. Yes, there have been plenty of sad and difficult times, but I have spent considerably more time laughing than crying. There’s not a day that goes by in which I don’t have multiple reasons to smile, and I am grateful for it. And if wrinkles are the price I pay, then so be it.
So I will go right on living, loving, laughing and smiling, allowing all the joys of life to be written across my face. And I hope that when I die, I’ll have too many wrinkles to count and will have earned every one of them.
Saturday, September 1, 2007
Friday, August 31, 2007
I’ve got a pretty big weekend planned – a football game tonight at the high school where my husband teaches, seeing my friend Corey Crowder in concert on Saturday, Home Group on Sunday, sleeping in on Monday morning instead of dragging myself to work, and finally, to cap it all off, the Clemson vs. Florida State game on Monday night! I’m so excited!
However, it dawned on me that I’m not quite sure why I’m celebrating. A quick trip to the Department of Labor website taught me that the General Secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, Peter McGuire, suggested the holiday in the late 1880’s as a way to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” (Nice quote!)
So while I’m riding in my car, sitting under the stadium lights, enjoying amplified music, and watching ESPN on my flatscreen TV, I’ll think of all the production workers who turned technology into reality so I could have such a fun weekend. Thanks to all the Laborers of the world!
Saturday, August 25, 2007
If you’ve ever seen their show, you know that the leather-clad, heavily tattooed, foul-mouthed Chapmans aren’t exactly poster-children for the Religious Right. Larry King was taking questions from viewers on this issue, and one asked if their prevalent use of four-letter words is really the best witness for Christ. The question obviously made Dog uncomfortable, and he said they were “working on it.” I watched a new episode earlier this week, and I didn’t see a bit of evidence to suggest that taming his tongue is anywhere near the top of Dog’s priorities.
One of the best parts of being a Christian is that God knows you are going to have parts of your life that aren’t exactly squeaky clean, but He loves and accepts you anyway. As the Apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 10:23, everything is permissible, just not necessarily constructive. God meets you where you are and changes you bit by bit – you don’t have to be perfect before you can have a relationship with Him. And that’s a good thing, since none of us are ever going to be perfect.
I wish that Dog had just manned up and said he wasn’t quite ready to give up the potty mouth yet. I wish he had owned up to the truth instead of skirting the issue by saying he was “working on it.”
If you know there’s an area of your life that’s not “constructive,” really examine how you feel about it. If you find you’re not ready to let it go, just be honest with yourself. Then, be honest with God and with other people. It may feel embarrassing or shameful, but you can’t expect to hold onto something you know is wrong and feel good while you do it.
If you are truly seeking God, you’ll be able to leave your unconstructive behavior behind when the time is right. Just don’t make it worse by being a liar or a hypocrite about it now.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
I try not to use a paragraph when a sentence will do, and I’ve never bought into the idea that the ability to pontificate on a given subject indicates intelligence. I often find myself wishing that people to whom I’m listening would stop beating around the bush and just say what they need to say.
This week I ran across a quote from Sophocles: “Much wisdom often goes with brevity of speech.” It brought to mind the political campaigning that’s already begun, and I had to laugh because if Sophocles is right, I’m not sure we have many wise candidates.
Anyway, Sophocles isn’t the only famous thinker who found less to be more where words are concerned. In Ecclesiastes 6:11, King Solomon said, “The more words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?” I get so frustrated when I have listened to someone talk for half an hour, and still have no idea what he or she actually said. Or worse, when the point is made in the first 5 minutes, but I have to keep sitting there as the person rambles on, rephrasing the message and adding trivial details. (Again, politics come to mind.)
Don’t get me wrong – if truly important or interesting information is being conveyed, I want every single detail. And I will talk for hours if the conversation is helping to build a relationship, encouraging someone, or developing knowledge or insight into my or someone else’s relationship with God. But otherwise, I’d just prefer to keep quiet.
Both Sophocles and King Solomon are renowned as two of the wisest men who ever lived. You know how I think they got that way? By taking their own advice and spending less time talking and more time listening and reflecting. They probably didn't talk much, but when they did, you can bet they really had something to say.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Hopefully I'll have something new here soon too. I'm pretty busy at work, and we had a death in the family, so my schedule has been pretty packed.
Check back soon!
Monday, July 30, 2007
Lately I’ve been reading the Gospels of the New Testament, and as always I’m intrigued by the many “miraculous signs and wonders” Jesus performed during His ministry on Earth. He turned water into wine, calmed a raging sea, walked on water, and fed thousands of people with only a few loaves and fishes, not to mention the everyday activity of healing the sick and disabled. Jesus’ miracles were a highly effective tool for convincing the people of the day that He truly was the Christ. Even after Jesus was crucified, the Disciples went right on healing people in His name.
All that’s fine and good, but here’s what bugs me about the whole thing: Why, when the world is so sick and lost, when there are so many “idols” to turn to in place of God and people seek Him less than ever before, did the miracles stop?
I guess there’s always the possibility that those stories you see about the statues of Christ that cry blood aren’t hoaxes, and maybe Benny Hinn really can heal people. And who knows – maybe it really was God who burned the image of the Virgin Mary onto that lady in Florida’s grilled cheese sandwich.
But I just can’t buy it. I don’t think God would allow people to profit financially from His miracles, which seems to be standard practice in these kinds of cases. And honestly, I just don’t think God is that lame and cheesy.
And even if Jesus came back today and started performing the same miracles He did before, I doubt that would work either. We’d write Him off as a skilled illusionist, or Science would devise a method to explain it all away. Today’s society is way too jaded to take anything at face value, and much too “intelligent” to accept anything on faith.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and I’ve decided that God didn’t retire from the miracle business at all; He just changed his tactics.
A friend of mine turned her back on God and was in such a deep pit of depression and despair, it seemed that she’d never make it out. No one could get through to her, and no one could help her. No pills could stop the hurt. Her life crumbled around her, and she and those who loved her were powerless to stop it. I feared she would give up. But one day, she suddenly woke up with the strength and determination to not only keep going, but to change things for the better, fight to regain what she’d lost, and to make a difference with her life. To me, that was a miracle.
And I know that countless others could tell similar stories - women who suddenly find themselves pregnant though the doctors said it was hopeless; marriages that overcome infidelity and separation to blossom; drug addicts who beat the odds and kick their habits; newborn babies initially given weeks to live who grow up to see adulthood; “prodigal sons” who come home to their parents– the list could go on and on.
We’ve got technology and modern medicine to meet our every physical need, but I bet all of us have prayed for an emotional, spiritual, or personal miracle at one time or another. And I think God is ready and waiting to deliver.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
I started off my travels with a business trip to fabulous Wausau, Wisconsin where I spent 3 days “scrubbing” data for a new software implementation. And yes, it’s as fun as it sounds. The most interesting part of the trip was traveling through the tiny Central Wisconsin Airport. It had 1 terminal and 6 gates, and there was only 1 parking lot for the whole place, including the rental cars. I have found that the size of the airport and the thoroughness of its security are inversely proportional, and CWA was no exception. Trust me – no terrorists are ever going to get through there.
I landed back in Charlotte at 10:00 on Friday night, got home around Midnight, packed up, and left for Kiawah Island at 9:00 on Saturday morning. On the way down we went to the Charleston Museum, which turned out to be one of the best ones I’ve ever visited. Charleston culture greatly values history, (especially its own), and that made the museum very unique. Most of the items were donated by the original families that owned them, so almost every display had some sort of personal story attached to it. The highlight was a special exhibit they had on dyes. They had these fabulous vintage designer clothes, shoes, and handbags on display, all arranged by color. As I was salivating over the clothes and pondering the feasibility of stealing a gorgeous pair of 1940’s peep-toe wedges, my husband (the Chemistry teacher) enjoyed reading about how different color dyes were created and how the technology has advanced over the years. It was a win for both of us!
The time spent on Kiawah was great too. One of the highlights was a bike ride out to Rhett’s Bluff, where we sat on the dock and watched dolphins swim down the channel as the sun set in the background. It was such an amazing scene, if you saw it in a painting you’d think it was too beautiful to be real.
Oddly enough, we only saw 1 deer, and we didn’t see a single alligator. It’s a sign of the times – the luxury houses are moving in and the wildlife is heading out in search of a less crowded island. Fortunately the ocean is still teeming with critters. One of our favorite things to do is swim out past the breakers and see what kind of animals my husband can dive down and find on the ocean floor. This year, along with the usual live sand dollars, hermit crabs, and conchs, he came up with a horseshoe crab the size of a dinner plate! The crab was not particularly thrilled about being rousted from his hiding place, and he did his best to make my husband pay for disturbing him. But when we were done examining him we buried him back in the exact same spot, so he was none the worse for the wear.
I did have to take one morning to check in with work. We went to a new shopping complex just off the island and I headed to a coffee shop with wi-fi while the others browsed the shops. The place was filled with other vacationing businesspeople, and we all commandeered tables for ourselves where we could spread out our laptops and briefcases. I had to laugh, because for me it felt like I was in that segment from Sesame Street, “Which One of These Is Not Like the Other.” They were all white males in their late 30’s and 40’s wearing preppy khaki shorts and polo shirts, and I was sitting there with my pigtails, flip flops, and bright green laptop case. I’m sure I didn’t look nearly as important as them. Oh well!
So that was my trip. I had a lot of fun, but it’s also good to be back home, sleeping in my own bed and loving on my animals. I should be back into the swing of things and blogging regularly again soon!
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
In the meantime, feel free to head over to Purple Women and friends and check out my latest post, Against All Logic. Hopefully you'll enjoy it.
Hope you're having a great week!
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
I can’t help but well up every time I say the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the National Anthem. Soldiers in uniform presenting the Colors get to me too, and I can barely stand to watch those Holiday messages they show on the news of soldiers overseas saying hello to their families. If I hear Taps, I’m done for. I really do love America.
America is an amazing country, and the freedoms we have here should not be taken for granted. And I’m most grateful for the freedom to pursue my relationship with Jesus Christ, who provides the greatest source of liberty.
Jesus said, "If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you." (John 8:32)
Because I am free in Christ, I can wholeheartedly enjoy being free as an American. What an awesome reason to celebrate today!
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Purple Women is an organization that provides support and resources for women (and I guess men too) who have chosen not to have children. From now on, I will be using this forum to discuss my thoughts on being a Childfree Christian. This is an awesome opportunity to talk about the Lord to a new group of people, and I am very excited about it!
A short bio and my first post are already up on the Purple Women and Friends blog. You might recognize the post as a re-vamp of an earlier one from End of the Tunnel, but future contributions will be all new. If you're interested in childfree issues, I encourage you to check it out!
Saturday, June 30, 2007
I'm looking forward to hearing from you!
Thursday, June 28, 2007
One of my most favorite movies of all time is White Christmas, a classic Bing Crosby musical based around Irving Berlin’s song of the same name. The premise is extremely cheesy and would never happen in the real world, but for some reason I am able to put my pragmatic nature aside and embrace the impossible when it is set to music.
Anyway, in the movie, Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Betty Haynes (Rosemary Clooney) hook up and live happily ever after, though at first things don’t look promising. Betty has to admit to Bob that her sister wrote a dishonest letter to get him to come and see their musical act. Bob isn’t offended because he thinks people are always working an “angle,” but Betty accuses him of being cynical. Bob responds:
“Oh come, come now Miss Haynes. Surely you know that everybody’s got a little larceny operating in them.”
I think Bing Crosby really hit the nail on the head with that comment, and the Bible backs him up. As the Apostle Paul put it, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
People will often do whatever it takes to make sure their interests are protected, even if it means hurting others – that’s just the way it is. We like to think we’re above that kind of thing, but if we’re honest, we know we have a tendency to put ourselves first. We know we hurt other people and disappoint our loved ones. And what’s worse, we know we disappoint God. But there is definitely hope.
Romans 8:39 says, “Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture…I'm absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”
So whether it’s a little bit of internal larceny you’re dealing with or a lot, don’t worry – God loves you no matter what!
Saturday, June 23, 2007
A while ago, my husband told me he’d been asking God to reveal WHY He didn’t want us to have children. He felt that if he could understand what God had in mind for us instead, he could more fully embrace His direction. Apparently God was listening.
We have spent every evening this week with friends or family members who needed our support. Their struggles were not expected, and we had no idea we’d be called upon so much. We have expended considerable emotional energy, invested lots of time, and gotten very little sleep. But the amazing part of everything is, we feel great! We are so honored that God would use us in the lives of people we care about, and it feels wonderful to serve in a meaningful way. We love these people and would do anything for them, and it seems that God plans to take advantage of that.
If we had children, there is no way we could have dropped everything this week. The children’s emotional and physical needs would have had to come first, and the people who needed us would have been out of luck.
I think we all need someone in our lives who we can depend on no matter what, and I hope my husband and I will always get to be that somebody for many people. This week has reminded us anew that children are not the only ones in this world who need our love.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Hearing this story got me thinking about my last post where I encouraged people to be themselves. But then I thought, “What if yourself sucks?”
At age 16 when I first became a Christian, (on a mission trip I might add,) I sat down and made a list of all the things I didn’t like about myself that I didn’t think God liked either. I don’t have the original, but I’ll hit the highlights.
First off, I decided I didn’t want to worry about things all the time and that I wanted to give up my need for absolute control. A task like packing for a trip could send me into a panic because I was so scared that I wouldn’t be prepared for every situation that might arise. And I remember one particular incident in middle school where I went nuts on my friend because she dropped a raisin in my tea. I’m not kidding – something so stupid made me completely lose it. I decided I’d like myself a lot better if I figured out how to relax.
Secondly, I wanted to stop being an exaggerator. You have probably met someone who does this - for example, if I got something on sale for 20% off it would turn into 30% when I told someone about it. Though I wasn’t really hurting anyone, it was technically a form of lying. I wanted to be a more credible person.
Finally, I decided I wanted to be a better listener. I knew I cared deeply about my friends and family, but I realized I didn’t show it very well. When someone was sharing with me, I was too quick to relate what he/she was saying to myself and turn the conversation back to me. I wanted to be more externally focused.
I became very conscious of those behaviors and prayed constantly that God would help me change them. And one day, I looked back and realized He had. Not that I don’t revert back to old ways every now and then, but I’d be willing to bet that some of you who know me now would never have guessed that I used to be a self-absorbed, anal-retentive control freak. (And if you could have guessed it, please let me know so I can get back to work on it.)
Anyway, when I really thought about my own personal experience, I realized that long before I ever had the confidence to be myself, I had to sit down and decide who I really wanted to be. I believe there are certain core tenants of your personality you can’t change, but I KNOW that through Christ you can control how those tendencies are displayed in your life.
So, if you have a sneaking suspicion that you’re not exactly the best you can be, (like if you show up for the Mission Trip and you’re the only one on the bus,) maybe some tweaking is in order before you go out unabashedly being yourself. But don’t worry – “…I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Phi 1:6)
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
This is probably the world’s most widely used adage, and it sounds so simple on the surface. But when people give this advice, do they really understand what they’re saying?
Because if you’re really being yourself, you are guaranteed to irritate, offend, or otherwise alienate someone along the way. What is pleasing to one person will grate on the next person’s nerves. Everyone will not always agree with you. And worst of all, you will eventually commit the cardinal sin of going AGAINST the flow.
Take traditional church folk for example. They want you to be yourself…“unless.” For example, “Be yourself, unless you don’t like the way we’ve always done things.” If you’d prefer an activity other than a potluck supper, if the sound of an electric organ hurts your ears, or if you are (gasp!) a Democrat, you’d best keep quiet about it. And there’s also, “Be yourself, unless you’re life’s not perfect.” If you’re fighting temptation, if you have doubts about your Faith, or if there’s anything unsavory in your past, don’t burden us with it. And for heaven’s sake, if your marriage is anything less than idyllic, keep it to yourself and act like nothing’s wrong.
When it comes right down to it, what people REALLY want is for you to be like them. Because if you are finding fulfillment by doing things differently, that just might mean that THEY are the ones who could have made better choices. And where Christians are concerned, I think sometimes instead of deepening our relationship with God to find confidence that we have chosen the right path, we instead find that comfort in the fact that everyone else is doing the same thing.
Romans 14:22 says, “Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don't impose it on others. You're fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you're not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you're out of line. If the way you live isn't consistent with what you believe, then it's wrong.”
So fortify yourself in the Spirit, and embrace the real you. Then go ahead – dare to be yourself.
Monday, June 11, 2007
I know that the decision to be childfree is not one that the most people will ever understand, and that’s okay – I don’t really expect them to. The majority of people do not choose my lifestyle, and I know it would be illogical for the world to cater to people like me.
I also don’t hate kids or their parents. Yes, babies scare me a little. Yes, I have run into some kids that I wanted to throttle, and yes, I have met some parents that needed a serious reality check. But I know some really fantastic kids too, and some of my own role models have been parents. I think it’s great when God chooses to give people fulfillment through children - that’s just not how He’s going to do things for me.
A lot of the childfree sites just seem to focus on baby bashing. I was looking more for support resources, but what I initially found was mostly rants about how the Childfree are right and everyone else is wrong. A lot of these posts are very one-sided and cruel, not to mention disrespectful and hypocritical. And ironically, a lot of these people don’t understand why the world doesn’t give them the respect they deserve.
You will never find me condemning another person’s life choices. I may not jump on their bandwagon, and I may even disagree with what they’re doing. But I will always respect them as children of God, whether they recognize Him as their Father or not. I know it is not my job to judge.
Anyway, after digging deeper, I did find some blogs and sites I enjoy and can relate to. And I am looking forward to adding my voice of reason to the Childfree Community.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
The other day I went down to the religious book store, and there I saw a bumper sticker that said "HONK IF YOU LOVE JESUS!" I bought it and put it on the back bumper of my car, and I'm really glad I did. What an uplifting experience I had! I was driving along, and stopped at the light at a busy intersection, just lost in thought about the Lord, and well, I didn't notice that the light had changed.
Well, that bumper sticker really worked! I found there were lots and lots of people who love Jesus. Why, the guy behind me started to pound on his horn and honk like crazy. He must REALLY love the Lord because pretty soon, he leaned out his window and yelled, "Jesus Christ!" as loud as he could. It was like a football game, with him shouting and cheering, "GO, JESUS CHRIST, GO!" Everyone else started honking, too, so I leaned out my window and waved and smiled to all of those loving people. There must have been a guy from Florida back there because I could hear him yelling something about a sunny beach, and saw him waving in a funny way with only his middle finger stuck up in the air. I asked my two kids what that meant. They kind of looked at each other, giggled and told me that it was the Hawaiian good luck sign. So, I leaned out the window and gave him the good luck sign back. Several cars back of me, a very nice man stepped out of his car and waved and yelled something. I couldn't hear him very well, but it sounded like, "Mother trucker," or "Mother's from there." Maybe he was from Florida, too. He must really love the Lord, cause he reached back into his car and honked his horn some more, too. A couple other people were so caught up in the joy of the moment that they got out of their cars and started walking toward me. I bet they wanted to pray, but just then I noticed that the light had changed to yellow, so I stepped on the gas. And a good thing I did, because I was the only driver to get across the intersection. I looked back at them all standing there, and I leaned way out the window, gave them a big smile and held up the Hawaiian good luck sign as I drove away. Praise the Lord for such wonderful folks!
Hilarious because it could be true - aren't you proud to be a Christian?!
Friday, June 8, 2007
After reading my blog, someone commented that it seemed like I’d already made up my mind. I was confused by the statement at first, but when I went back and re-read what I’d posted, I saw what he/she meant. And it rocked my world.
You see, about the time I posted that blog, my husband and I had decided that we would have children. We even went so far as to tell some friends about it, and sketch out a timeline. But somehow, no matter how hard I tried to convince myself, I felt increasingly uneasy. I kept flipping back and forth in my mind, but I didn’t want to revisit the issue. It felt good to have made an official decision, even if it might not be the right one.
The blog comment was the first in a long series of events (of which I’ll spare you the details) that made it painfully obvious that we needed to regroup. After much prayer and discussion, we came to a new conclusion:
It just doesn’t look like parenthood is in God’s plan for us. I know you should never say never where God is concerned, and I won’t. But what I can say is that we’re going to live life as if we aren’t having children, and I know it’s the right direction for us.
Now that I have faced reality, I have that peace again which I’ve only ever experienced when I’ve been in the center of God’s will. But that’s not to say I am bursting with happiness right now either. I wanted to want to be a mom. And I wanted to make my parents happy by giving them a grandchild. And I wanted, for once in my freakin’ life, to do something the same way everyone else does it.
But when it’s all said and done, more than anything, I want what God wants. And apparently, that doesn’t include any little Shelleys running around. Oh well – one is probably enough anyway.
Monday, June 4, 2007
Work has been insane - so bad that I had to cancel my 2 planned vacations for this summer. Many nights I've come home completely exhausted and just vegged out instead of writing. We had intended to buy a car in a few months, but that got moved up to last Thursday when we found the deal of the century. A good thing I know, but there went another evening. My stinkin' dog has a wicked case of separation anxiety, and is slowly destroying my house. Today he ate a hand-crafted wooden toy from Honduras that my husband has had since he was a child. His father brought it back from a mission trip, and it had a lot of sentimental value. Our frustration keeps building and building - I don't think anyone wants to read something I'd write while I was mad at my dog. I tend toward irrationality when angry.
On top of all the piddly annoyances, we've been in the process of making some major life decisions and sort of re-charting our direction for the future. That's all good stuff too, but definitely emotionally and spiritually draining.
Anyway, enough whining. I promise I'll get back to posting more regularly, so please keep checking back. Or, you could always sign up to get my blogs via e-mail or add me to your feed burner. But whatever you do, please don't forget about me!
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
I have to start off by apologizing for taking such a long break between blogs. I know that’s a no-no, but things have been crazy in every possible way over the last few weeks. But hey – if life didn’t throw me a curve ball every once in awhile I wouldn’t have anything good to write about!
Fortunately some of the craziness has been due to fun stuff. Two weeks ago, we took a long weekend down to Fripp Island, which is off the southernmost tip of South Carolina, just outside of Beaufort. It was the first time we’d taken Bowman, our Greyhound, to the beach, and we had a blast! We had the most fun at Hunting Island, which is one giant state park/nature preserve right outside of Fripp. There is no development on the island, and the beaches are pristine. There is a lighthouse which my husband climbed while I stayed w/ the dog, and a really cool nature trail that goes through the dunes and along a tidal creek. I had never hiked at the beach before, and it was a really neat experience. But I think the best part of the day was the most unexpected.
When you have a unique dog that thinks all people were put on earth to pet him, you tend to end up talking with people you normally wouldn’t. While Ben was climbing the lighthouse, a woman asked if she could pet Bowman, and we struck up a conversation. Eventually her husband wandered up from the beach and Ben finished with the lighthouse, and we all ended up talking together.
They were a nuclear engineer and a teacher, and both were in their mid to late 50’s. They lived in San Diego, and were camping their way across the country. We ended up talking about anything and everything, from the best part about South Carolina to education in America. I was amazed at what an encouragement these random people were to us – they were so wise, and they seemed genuinely interested in who we were and what we were contributing to the world. The conversation ended up lasting about 2 hours, and it was an incredible source of confirmation and affirmation for us.
Religion never came up in our conversation, and I’m not positive if these people were Christians. However, I know that God had to have put them in our path, and that our time with them was definitely a blessing from Him.
It makes me wonder – how many times do I miss out on these kinds of little blessings? I am introverted by nature, and I am a master at being kind and polite as I craftily keep people at a distance. I tend to invest very deeply in my friends and family and pay little attention to casual acquaintances or the world at large. Being overtly friendly just doesn’t come naturally to me, and it’s never been particularly important to me either. But maybe it’s more worthwhile than I thought. You never know when a seemingly insignificant encounter could turn into a lasting blessing.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
“Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise – why destroy yourself? Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool – why die before your time? It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.” Ecc. 7:16-18.
Any good Christian will tell you that being overly wicked and foolish will lead to destruction, but how many would tell you that being too righteous would cause the same thing? I never really thought about it much either, but I can see how it’s true.
Being “overrighteous” quickly turns into being self-righteous – which leads to being judgemental, close-minded, and eventually hypocritical. Over time, the message of Christ is perverted and people are driven away from Him instead of toward Him. If there’s anything that will destroy Christianity, it will be Christians themselves.
This verse kind of takes some of the pressure off of trying to be that perfect Christian who never struggles with temptation and never breaks the rules. A Christian life is not about being extremely good or moral; it’s about finding a balance and living a REAL, genuine life with God. And I don’t care who you are – if you’re being real, you’re not being perfect!
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
I came across an old e-mail forward about Pepsi that I hung on to, not because of the e-mail itself, but because of my husband’s reaction to it. The e-mail went as follows:
Don’t buy Pepsi in the new can! Pepsi has a new “patriotic” can coming out with pictures of the Empire State Building and the Pledge of Allegiance on them. However, Pepsi left out two little words on the pledge, “Under God.”
Pepsi said they did not want to offend anyone. If this is true, then we don’t want to offend anyone at the Pepsi corporate office. So if we don’t buy any Pepsi products, they will not be offended when they don’t receive our money that has the words “In God We Trust” on it. HOW FAST CAN YOU FORWARD THIS ONE?
Don’t worry! It’s an urban legend perpetuated by ignorant Christians with nothing better to do with their time. If someone had spent the five seconds it takes to forward this and instead did a quick search on dogpile, google, or yahoo you would never have had to undergo this traumatic experience and you would not have wasted 30 seconds of your life! Do I sound sarcastic and testy?!!!! This is exactly why people don’t like Christians – any stupid little e-mail that comes around about God or Jesus gets blown out of proportion. It’s almost as if there is some subconscious thought that goes through most Christians heads “I love God and Jesus – I’m not supposed to have any independent, rational, or logical thought – nor am I expected to be competent – when I got baptized, all of the water flooded my brain cavity and my brains oozed out of my ears, therefore, it must be God’s will for me not to use my brain. This is a long sarcastic way of saying – Don’t Worry, Drink Pepsi!!!!!
You said it, babe!
Thursday, May 10, 2007
“What if you live your whole life as a Christian, and then when you die you find out that it’s all a lie, and there is no God?”
It’s definitely an interesting scenario to ponder.
If there’s no God, then my soul dies with my body. So it’s not like there will be some part of me that is able to look back on my life after I’m gone and feel embarrassed for getting duped. And I won’t be able to be disappointed about not going to Heaven either, since I won’t be cognizant of anything past my last breath. If there is no God, I’ll never even know it.
The question basically comes down to whether or not my life would have been better if I had not been a Christian. Did my commitment to God hinder my existence or cause me to miss out on anything?
Unimaginable. I have lived both with God and without Him, and there is nothing in this world that could make me go back. My life has been amazingly rich and fulfilling, and I don’t think there’s anything else that could have provided the joy and peace I have found in Christ. You can question Christianity all you want, but my personal experience is mine, and it’s not up for debate. If I have put my faith in something that doesn’t exist, I certainly have been rewarded for it, and I have no regrets.
So back to the original question – what if God turns out to be a sham? My answer was and is, “WHO CARES?”
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
In general, I’m not much of a drinker. I don’t see anything wrong with it (provided no one is getting out of control,) but it’s just not my speed. I do enjoy having a quiet cocktail with a close group of friends though.
But when I’m doing a work thing, I generally steer clear. Things tend to get magnified when they are retold the next day, and I am especially susceptible to that phenomenon because I am so much younger than most of the rest of my peers. Plus, people tend to make dumb comments like telling the waiter to check my ID, and I can definitely do without that.
However, I wonder if I end up sending a message I don’t intend? Do people think I’m a snob? Also, many of them know I am a Christian – do they think that’s why I don’t drink, and do they think I am judging them because they do? That is the absolute last thing I would want.
I just can’t seem to figure out the middle ground on this one. Any thoughts?
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
As I listened to all the big hopes and dreams, I couldn’t help but remember myself at that age. So excited to leave high school behind and head off for the big world of college, and convinced I’d never go home ever again. I was majoring in Sociology, planning to become a Social Worker and change the world by making a difference in the lives of others and helping those who couldn’t help themselves.
Except for the vow never to go home again, my husband had some different ideas. He had decided that he was going to graduate with a 4.0 in Chemical Engineering and go to work at a specific company, where he would work his way up the ladder to eventually become the VP of Research and Development. He was going to get married, have 2.5 kids, and live the whole American Dream.
As you might have guessed, things didn’t turn out like either of us would have planned. My husband did become a Chemical Engineer, but only for a little while, as God called him to become a teacher. The corporate world turned out to be more my speed, and I was the one who ended up on the fast track while my husband gave up money and prestige for the chance to invest in others. A businesswoman with a Sociology degree, and a Chemistry teacher with a Master’s degree in Engineering – makes no sense whatsoever, but that’s God for you.
I think that sometimes God just gives us the “what,” and we assign our own “why.” We get on His path, but then we make assumptions about where it will end up. And if we become too focused on those assumptions, before we know it, we have missed the fork in road we were supposed to take, and we end up driving away from Him despite all our good intentions to follow Him.
Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will grant you the desires of your heart.” Even if you don’t really know what those desires are yet, and even if they seem impossible, the real way to make your dreams come true is to live a joyful life, knowing that God is in control.
Lately I have been guilty of trying to out-plan God. I can’t see what’s around the next bend, and it’s been driving me crazy. I want to make a PLAN, but really everything is already laid out for me if I just wait for it. I need to delight myself in all the joys of God that are in the here and now, and let the future take care of itself.
So congratulations to all the 2007 Grads. May God always keep you guessing, and may you love every minute of it.
Monday, May 7, 2007
Anyway, I am sitting in the airport waiting for my flight. The terminal is fairly empty, but of course, someone chose to sit down close to me and whip out his cell phone.
If you have traveled at all, you know exactly the kind of guy I’m talking about. Mr. “Look at me – I am wearing nice clothes and I am an important businessman – therefore I have to right to talk as loudly as I want on my cell phone without regard to how annoying I am to other people – I am so much better than you.”
And the thing is, if you eavesdrop on airport cell phone conversations, they are never very important. These guys are not involved in high level negotiations or sealing any important deals – they seem to be on the phone just for the sake of being on the phone and looking cool. The guy beside me just seems to be engaging in some office gossip. Apparently his boss is away in Key West, and there seems to be some speculation as to who he’s with. A very critical conversation I’m sure.
Personally I enjoy having a little quiet time while I wait for my plane. It’s a great time to read, people watch, or write. I know I have left everything in order at the office, and there’s nothing I can accomplish on the phone. Might as well just relax before I get on the plane and wedge myself between the fat guy that smells like cheese and the mom with the snotty crying baby. Oh the joys of travel.
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
In your mind, conjure an image of the Mona Lisa. Visualize that masterpiece's subtleties of hue and tone as clearly as you can.
Next, shift to the image of a paint-by-numbers Mona Lisa. Envision the flat, raw colors meeting hard-edged, one against the other.
Now, let me relate a fantasy about masterpieces, paint by numbers and you. It goes like this:
Before you were born God came to you and said:
Hi there! I just dropped by to wish you luck. And to assure you that you and I will be meeting again soon. Before you know it.
You're heading out on an adventure that will be filled with fascinating experiences. You'll start out as a tiny speck floating in an infinite, dark ocean, quite saturated with nutrients. So you won't have to go looking for food or a job or anything like that. All you'll have to do is float in the darkness.
And grow incredibly. And change miraculously.
You'll sprout arms and legs. And hands and feet. And fingers and toes. As if from nothing, your head will take form. Your nose, your mouth, your eyes and ears will emerge.
As you continue to grow bigger and bigger, you will become aware that this dark oceanic environment of yours--which, when you were tiny, seemed so vast--is now actually cramped and confining. That will lead you to the unavoidable conclusion that you're going to have to move to a bigger place.
After much groping about in the dark, you will find an exit. The mouth of a tunnel. "Too small," you'll decide. "Couldn't possible squeeze through there." But there will be no other apparent way out. So, with primal spunk, you will take on your first "impossible" challenge and enter the tunnel.
In doing so, you will be embarking on a brutal, no-turning-back, physically exhausting, claustrophobic passage that will introduce you to pain and fear and hard physical labor. It will seem to take forever. But mysterious undulations of the tunnel itself will help squirm you through. And, finally, after what will seem like interminable striving, you will break through to a blinding light.
Giant hands will pull you gently, but firmly, into an enormous room. There will be several huge people, called adults, huddling around you, as if to greet you. If it is an old fashioned place, one of these humongous people may hold you upside down by the legs and give you a swat on the backside to get you going. All of this will be what the big people on the otherside call being born. For you, it will be only the first of your new life's many exploits.
God continues: I was wondering, while you're over there on the other side, would you do me a favor? "Sure," you chirp.
Would you take this artist's canvas with you and paint a masterpiece for me? I'd really appreciate that. Beaming, God hands you a pristine canvas. You roll it up, tuck it under your arm and head off on your journey.
Your birth is just as God had predicted, and when you come out of the tunnel into the bright room, some doctor or nurse looks down at you in amazement and gasps: "Look! The little kid's carrying a rolled up artist's canvas!" Knowing that you do not yet have the skills to do anything meaningful with your canvas, the big people take it away from you and give it to society for safekeeping until you have acquired the prescribed skills requisite to the canvas's return.
While society is holding this property of yours, it cannot resist the temptation to unroll the canvas and draw pale blue lines and little blue numbers all over it's virgin surface.
Eventually, the canvas is returned to you, it's rightful owner. However, it now carries the implied message that if you will paint inside the blue lines and follow the instructions of the little blue numbers your life will be a masterpiece. And that is a lie.
For more than 50 years I worked on my paint-by-numbers creation. With uneven, but persistent diligence, I dipped an emaciated paint-by-numbers brush into color no. 1 and painstakingly painted inside each little blue-bordered area marked 1. Then on to 2 and 3 and 4 and so on.
Sometimes, during restive periods of my life, I would paint, say the 12 spaces before the 10 spaces (a token rebellion against overdoses of linearity). More than once, I painted beyond a line and, feeling embarrassed, would try to wipe off the errant color or cover it with another before anyone might notice my lack of perfection.
From time to time, though not often, someone would complement me, unconvincingly, on the progress of my "masterpiece." I would gaze at the richness of others' canvases. Doubt about my own talent for painting gnawed at me. Still, I continued to fill in the little numbered spaces, unaware of, or afraid to look at, any real alternative.
Then there came a time, after half a century of daubing more or less inside the lines, that my days were visited by traumatic events. The dividends of my noxious past came home to roost, and the myth of my life began horrifically to come unglued. I pulled back from my masterpiece-in-the-works and saw it with emerging clarity.
It looked awful. The stifled strokes of paint had nothing to do with me. They did not illustrate who I am or speak of who I could become. I felt duped, cheated, ashamed--anguished that I had wasted so much canvas, so much paint. I was angry that I had been conned into doing so. But that is the past. Passed.
Today, I wield a wider brush--pure ox hide bristle. And I'm swooping it through the sensuous goo of Cadminium yellow, Alzarian Crimson or Ultramarine Blue (not nos. 4, 13 or 8) to create the biggest, brightest, funniest, fiercest damn dragon that I can. Because that has more to do with what's inside me than some prescribed plagiarisms of somebody else's tour de force.
You have a masterpiece inside you too, you know. One unlike any that has ever been created, or ever will be. And remember: If you go to your grave without painting your masterpiece, it will not get painted. No one else can paint it. Only you.
I’ll be the first to admit that my reasons for being unenthusiastic about having children are mostly selfish. I enjoy my freedom and my discretionary income, and I’m not too excited about the bodily wear and tear that results from childbirth. I enjoy being able to invest in my friends and in my church without having to think of a child first. And I have an amazing relationship with my spouse that I don’t want to be changed by anything. I love my life just the way it is.
My husband and I were talking about this issue yesterday, and we realized we were taking for granted that having a child is a selfless thing to do. We started discussing the reasons why people have kids, and decided that selfish motives aren’t exclusive to the childfree.
If you really get down to it, the main reasons people choose to have kids seem to involve PERSONAL fulfillment! Some people want something to love that will unconditionally love them back. Others dream of reliving the joy of their own childhoods, and getting it right where their parents erred. Sadly many people have children in an attempt to fix a failing marriage, which of course never works. But in any case, even though parents certainly make sacrifices to raise their children, they do so in hopes of achieving some sort of greater reward for themselves.
Awhile back, I asked my Dad why he decided to have kids, and he answered by simply saying, “Because I wanted to be a father.” No further explanation, no stupid justifications about contributing to society or leaving a legacy for future generations. He had children because he knew that’s what would make him happy. I wish more people would be that honest.
People who have children aren’t any more special than those who don’t. They’re not on some noble mission, and they’re not martyrs. They’re not more mature or unselfish, and I shouldn’t feel inferior because I haven’t made the same life decisions as them. They have kids, and that makes them happy. I don’t have kids, and I’m very happy too. Simple as that.
I am not a bad person for enjoying my life as it is. I am not any more or less selfish than anyone else in this world, and I shouldn’t have to apologize for my choices just because they differ from the majority. I need to stop doubting myself and just listen to what God is telling me. I guess it’s pretty dumb to doubt that I’m really listening to God, just because I actually like what He’s saying!