Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My plain T-shirt

I remember owning a T-shirt in elementary school that was plain. It didn't say anything on it. It was just a peach colored T-shirt to be worn with shorts on a warm California afternoon. The shirt didn't have a picture of anything on it either. No animals or rainbows, just a light orange shirt with short sleeves. I kinda despised that T-shirt for it's lack of character. I was living in the 70's when there were hip shirts that said "I'm with Stupid" or "Hang Ten" or a picture of a couple walking on the beach at sunset and yet, my shirt was plain.
I still remember trying to improve the status of my T-shirt one morning before I headed out the door to face my 4th-grade classmates. By using light blue ribbon and sewing pins to make a design I would have a shirt that said something about who I was. Now, to make a design with a couple inches of ribbon and a few sewing pins takes a great deal of talent, and unfortunately, at age 10, I lacked that as well. The best design I could come up with was a "tic-tac-toe". I laid the 4 pieces of ribbon on the front of my T-shirt and then I pinned the edges with the little pins. I had no O's and no X's, I only had the graph.
I actually managed to walk to school and get to my desk without any damage to the "tic-tac-toe", but at some point in the morning--before I even made it out the door to recess the pins were jabbing into me. I kept trying to make the pins work and no matter how much I maneuvered them, they would either scratch my arms or jab into my torso. The whole thing was only complicated by the fact that we were also working on our multiplication tables and I still needed to use my fingers to do those. It was quite distracting and to this day I have to stop and think about the answer to 7 times 8. Finally, my dear teacher, Mr. Knight, asked me if I would like to keep my pins and my ribbon on his desk until the end of the day.
Once again, I was plain.

Now, here is the thing. I don't like to be plain. There isn't a woman I know who would consider it a compliment to be called "plain". I want to be clever. I want to be smart. I want to be funny, intelligent, stunning. I want to be amazing. But, being plain is not something I yearn for.

Now that I have lived through the 70's, the 80's AND the 90's, I recognize that fashions come and go. I have had a T-shirts with the images of all 3 of the original Charlie's Angels, I have cut up T-shirts in "Flashdance" style and I have had T-shirts that I bedazzled and splattered with puffy paint. Through the years I learned that "less is more" and that most likely, my peach colored T-shirt was more than adequate for a 10-year-old girl (and probably in better taste than a shirt that said "Go Climb a Rock"). But, the feeling of not being good enough is the driving factor behind the moment I lived in. The feeling of inadequacy is what carved the memory into my silly little brain.

Even at 10-years-old I wanted to be more than I was. What I was didn't feel like it was enough. I wanted to be more, to do more, to say more. I wanted to have a voice and use that voice. I wanted to make a statement, and as a child I wanted to make it so badly, I didn't care what it was. I wanted to say something, even if it was someone else's statement.

And I wonder, as I sit here, in my plain white T-shirt, am I still doing the same thing? Am I so eager to matter that I am willing to have someone else's voice? Do I want to exist beyond myself so badly that I will grab an earthly wisdom and make it my own? I want to say that I have outgrown the need for the approval of man. But, when I look at my own thoughts over the last several months I see a person who can still be led down a path that is wide. I see a person who can be influenced by who she makes the most important person in her life. I can fall victim to the wisdom that the world offers and I can begin to believe things that are contrary to the wisdom that comes from the Father of Heavenly lights.

It is so important to me that I stay in the place where I recognize the wisdom that is from this world and the truth that is from above. It matters to me that I can see the difference and that the choices I make everyday reflect that difference. I want to voice the things that I learn from the time I am spending in the presence of the Lord. I want the truth to flow through me. I want to say things that align with the truth of Scripture, even if those things are not popular enough to be put on a T-shirt.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A lion and a stripper walk into an attic...

So, last night my husband left me for a Vegas stripper. It was awful and even though it happened only in my nightmare, when I woke the pain was still there and it was nearly unbearable.

I don’t know why I dreamed that my husband was madly in love with another woman. I wouldn’t ever believe that he isn’t capable of being drawn away from me, but it is not something I obsess about—I rarely think about it at all. Unfortunately, our minds are the place that the enemy likes to send his lions. They lurk in our minds looking for ways to attack and draw us away from the peace that the Father wants us to experience.

I hate that battlefield. It’s not a fair place to fight at all. There is so much stuff in my mind to trip over. There are boxes and boxes of junk, there is old gym equipment—that was never used enough, there are photo albums (unfinished, of course), there is a mirror that changes whenever you look in it, there are report cards and tests, books—still unfinished, and two huge Victorian Victrola phonographs (one plays things that I’ve said and the other plays things that were said to me). Needless to say, while trying to fend off lions, it is easy to fumble over ones feet and land in the middle of unused dental floss or expired vitamins.

The good news is, I knew he was coming. I knew he was lurking. I could feel him trying to find an in and a way to bring me down. I made some declarations recently toward some areas that I wanted to grow. I spoke up and made a commitment to a way that I wanted to serve the Lord. The enemy heard me and made it his goal to discourage me. He knows that the things I am working for will honor my marriage and bring glory to the Lord. He doesn’t want me to grow closer to my husband. He doesn’t want me to help married women grow closer to theirs either. So, he sent a lion to mess with my mind and make me feel insecure around a sexy Vegas stripper.

I have to admit, that it worked for a minute. I was so irritated with my husband that I didn’t allow him the opportunity to bring me coffee in bed. I rolled away instead, and told him,

“I’m mad at you. You hurt me.”

It’s not the first dream, so he knows the drill. I’m sure he rolled his eyes when he responded, “No, I didn’t. Whatever happened, it wasn’t me. I wasn’t there.”

And as I lay there feeling a great deal of frustration towards him, I was acutely aware that the pain would be so much worse, had it not been a dream. And this pain made me more eager to do the things that God is telling me to do.

Awake and moving I am no longer irritated with my husband’s nightmare philandering or the sexy Vegas stripper. Instead, I am excited that the things I have set my mind on and the things I have made goals to accomplish would irritate the one who hates what is good. I am pleased to know that I am fighting so well, while awake, that the time he feels he can attack is when I am sleeping and my defenses are down! He doesn’t care if it isn’t a fair fight, because there is no justice in him. But, I know what the Holy Spirit is leading me to do and lions, dusty mind attics or even sexy strippers, will not deter me!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Even the best of friends cannot attend each other's funeral

Funerals are beautiful and happy or beautiful and sad. Yesterday, I got to go to the funeral for my Paternal Grandmother. She was born in 1920 and had raised 5 children. Those children led to 65 Grandchildren, Great-Grandchildren, and Great-Great Grandchildren. This alone made for a funeral that was beautiful and happy. And, as a believer, I know that she is now experiencing completeness and a fulfillment that she had ever known in this life.

As we were getting ready to go to the funeral I started to think about being born and the time when I added myself to her numbers. I was closer to the beginning of what would later be her legacy. I considered the moment of birth for the infant, the mother and the Grandmother. How different the experience is for each one—but my thoughts were more directly the infant and the Grandmother. I thought about my Grandmother’s possible reaction to my birth. I know that she wasn’t present—I was Grandchild number 9, 10 or maybe even 11 (some of us cousins are so close in age, I don’t remember who was here first). There had been babies born before me who had come out not breathing and some with special needs. I wasn’t an important birth—but even so, I am sure that I was newsworthy to her. Her only son now had a daughter. I was pink and sweet and I had fulfilled my only purpose up to this point. I was a girl. My brothers were boys born a year and a half apart and I followed as quickly as I could. In a time before Ultrasounds, my arrival was an unveiling of sorts. Had I been a boy, the entire dynamic of my family—as I now know it—would have been be altered. It was important that I didn’t fail in this first feat set before me.

It occurred to me that as Grandchildren and as Grandmothers we have certain unspoken appointments that we must keep. In a perfect world they happen in the correct order and with decades between them. I am 45 years old and my Grandmother was to be 90 this month. So, when I was born she was just about the same age that I am today. It was her role to acknowledge my birth and to celebrate the beginning of my life. At her funeral it was my role to acknowledge her death and celebrate her life in its entirety. She’s there when I am born and I am there when she dies. That’s the beauty of life.

And then there are the events that we don’t plan on attending. When a Grandmother attends a birth and then attends the funeral for that same person—the rules are broken and it is more difficult to find the beauty. I have heard it said, more times than I can count, “No parent should ever have to bury a child”. Having passed through that shadow of death and felt the sting, I agree with a hearty amen to that and I have decided that I want to have a new rule in my life. If I am there when you are born, then I don’t want to go to your funeral. But, to the fortune of things I cannot fully understand, I don’t make the rules.

Recently, I told my sister-in-law that I would be at her funeral—she could count on it. The only reason I wouldn’t be there would be because she had come to mine. There are several people in my life that I have that unspoken agreement with. Raging waters from a bursting dam won’t be able to keep me away from the funeral of some of the people in my life. Like a salmon returning to his place of birth—I will need to be there in the end to celebrate the time I had with certain people in my life. It won’t be for them, it will be for me.

For most of the next 3 or 4 decades, I hope to avoid funerals as a whole and attend many baby showers and births. That’s the plan, anyway. But, I have to say, that I don’t hate funerals as a whole. I love life too much to hate funerals. There is no other time that we are more aware of our humanity. Funerals are beautiful and happy or beautiful and sad. At least we know that they will always be beautiful, for every life, no matter how long it is lived is abounding with the potential for beauty!