July 31, 2013
This morning came with a steady rainfall. With a free day ahead of me, I decided to head to the Y instead of out for my usual morning run. So as soon as we had finished breakfast I asked my grandfather if he was interested in coming along. He had too much business to take care of so I went alone.
Finishing my laps, I stood up at the end of the lane and took off my goggles. When I did so I noticed a lady and young girl who were watching me. The child was obviously learning to swim, with the floatie strapped onto her back, so I started to go talk to them, wanting to talk to others who were involved in the swim lesson process. As I walked towards them, the lady smiled and told me that they were just talking about my swim cap. The girl had never seen one before and was asking if I had no hair. I smiled at her and took off the cap to show that I, in fact, had a great deal of it. Then I explained to her the reasons people wore such things. In my case, I did it because back when my hair was blond, I had to worry about chlorine turning it green. The girl grew wide-eyed at that notion, and I remedied it with the clarification that now that my hair had turned darker and redder, it didn’t really do that. I pointed out how the two of them had similarly red hair.
As we talked a bit more, the lady mentioned that she was in the process of adopting the girl. I was obviously confused, noticing how alike they looked, and so she noted that she was also the girl’s aunt. Her parents had just died, last month in fact.
“I’m so sorry! An accident?” I asked.
At this point the child took a few practice dips in the water, submerging herself as she kicked around and dove underneath.
The lady took advantage of the moment to say “No,” shaking her head sadly. “No accident”
Tears sprang to my eyes as I gasped, Oh!
When the girl emerged from her dips and dives, she began to talk to me some more. I told her that I had been visiting my mother recently, and that one of the things I had done with her was swimming. I wanted her to know that my father had died when I was a child, so I worked that into our conversation as well. “How did he die?” she wanted to know.
I told her it was an accident.
She grew solemn as she said gravely, “My parents didn’t have an accident.”
At this her aunt jumped in. “Yes,” she argued, “Your parents did have an accident. We don’t know exactly what happened . . .”
Looking at us both, the girl asked, simply, “What’s an accident?”
It took me just a few moments to race through some words in my head until I came up with this: “An accident is something that happens that is not supposed to happen.”
Her aunt nodded her agreement, smiling. I smiled with her as we realized the child seemed satisfied with this.
Lord, may she grow in wisdom and in grace . . .
July 24, 2013
Yesterday I was involved in an accident. Though there are some very real ramifications I’m going to have to deal with now, it was not as bad as it could have been; there are many reasons to be thankful. But all I have felt has been a deep-seated sense of guilt, and of dread. My emotional reaction has made me aware of something pretty significant regarding my faith. It centers around a phrase that hit me some time ago now, as came out when I visited with, and vented to, an old friend this afternoon. The phrase was from a B_ble Study I was doing back when I lived in Afgh@nist@n. A group of us ladies were working through a Beth Moore study in which a question was raised that struck me deeply. So much so that I scrawled it on a scrap piece of paper and taped the torn strip to my work computer. It read “In your heart of hearts and in the darkest dark, do you believe that God is a Giver or a Taker?”
I knew when I first read that, and I know it now that, against all my wiser sensibilities so far as who I want to believe God is, I fall more consistently into the latter—“taker” category of believers . . . at least when it comes to my own life. But I guess all of us hold our truest beliefs about our own lives more tangibly than about any general ideals about humanity.
At any rate, I raised my hand sheepishly at the time, and I raise it once more, now.
The reason it came to the forefront at this point in my life is that the fault I feel about this accident made me speak a series of phrases to myself that went somewhat like this:
But of course. Serves you right. That’s what you get for enjoying your life too much. For settling in too happily with your family, and with your friends. “Life is pain,” after all, as Wesley put it in The Princess Bride . . . isn’t it?
Well yes. And no.
Yes there is much pain in this life. But no, it’s not all pain.
Yes, there is hardship. But there is also great Joy, that is ours for the taking.
I do not believe God is out to get us. I will not believe it. And the strange thing is that my eyes tear up as I say that to myself because of how acutely aware I am that this is a struggle for me. Somehow, somewhere along the way I got it into my hardheaded brain that I had to earn my keep in this world. And that I had better not settle in too much to love because, surely, I was going to mess things up if anyone cared too much for me. The worst part about that belief system is that it goes the opposite way: it hardens me off from loving others too much as well.
Lord help me move past this tendency. My hope is that the reason it hit so hard now is that I was indeed making progress in moving past that, so that this bump along the road [excuse the pun ☺ ] was more instantly obvious to me than it may have been in my younger years.
This wrong thinking has impacted many areas of my life, I suspect, holding me back from hope in some very significant ways. Lord help me continue being able to embrace the gifts You have given me. Let me laugh by the poolside with a friend and her little ones. Let me love this life.
July 21, 2013
I had a meltdown the other night. As we watched the storm roll in and wondered if our picnic/harbor concert plans would be thwarted by the weather, I felt my restlessness turn into teary-eyed emotion. With the security of being home with my folks, I began to just vent my feelings, crying as I did so.
As with many of my days on this leg of my summer visits, much of this afternoon had been spent hanging out with kids, playing in the water. And as I thought of the fact that I would be leaving in just a few days, I just started to sputter about not being ready to go yet . . . and started to cry. I must have sounded like a silly kid, blabbering on about how I “didn’t want to go.” But that’s the way I was feeling. There in the security of my mother’s home, I cried.
I’m too old to do that. Or so it feels. But I guess in the same way that a mother is always a mother, a daughter is always a daughter. Even if that daughter happens to be a whining one ☺
The older I get, the harder it gets to pick up and move on. The more I want to settle in where I am. And frankly, I have had a summer of blessedness. I have had bountiful, family-filled times. I got to visit with my grandparents, with all but one of the sibling family units this summer, plus a few of the cousins and, blessedly, my mother. I got to bum around with quite a few little ones who, perfect though they might not be, have been practically perfect for me.
No, I’m not ready for summer to end. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things . . .
We took a road trip to the beach 2 days ago. After melting, more and more, each day, to the point where even the lake was like a giant bathtub, we decided the only thing left to do was head for the ocean. It was a lot of driving for a short period of time, since we couldn’t leave till Mel finished work for the morning, and I had a visit I still had to make that night before flying out in the morning. But we decided it was worth trying and, good Lord, was it ever! Seeing the pure, watery joy on the children’s faces. Gasping at the icy-cold shock of that first entry into the salty water. Watching my own hands through my swim goggles, bubbles streaming over them, as I did a few icy-cold strokes in the waves. After playing about a bit, I went back to our stuff pile to get my camera, thinking I would snap some shots of the kids as they played wave-jumping games with their mother. As I walked back towards the water, though, I noticed my shadow and paused for a bit of my own shadow-fun there on the sand.
July 16, 2013
I know this feeling. That nagging sense of neglectfulness that comes when I know there is much I have been needing to write about, yet I have not been able to do so. And at the same time, a second-guessing of that, feeling like I have not been “productive” enough lately to merit documentation of my time. How can I properly write when I haven’t even been able to carry on many proper conversations with all the fits-and-starts-and-travels lately. Yesterday I attempted to take a Skype call while at the pool. It was too hot to stand on the poolside, so I stood, half in the water, and tried to converse. As we spoke of the importance of good household routines for children, my friend came over to me. She asked if she could see anything on the screen and popped her head up behind me, introducing herself and waving vigorously. I smiled and told her that, yes, she could. And that the video did go both ways. We gave up on the Skype call soon thereafter, and I returning to proper poolside decorum ☺
I have also questioned the value of what I would have to write about. Would it be about Magic Pie Trees? My recent days have consisted mainly of conversations like the following . . .
Remembering that his mother had mentioned plans to tackle her brimming cherry trees, I asked Ned if he had picked cherries since I was there last. He nodded. Then I asked if they had eaten cherry pie. He shook his head solemnly. “No—we don’t grow pies.” I agreed with him and launched into a scenario that came to mind. If I had a pie tree, it would grow different pies each season. In the springtime, I would pick Cherry Pie. In the summer, Lemon Meringue. In the autumn, it would be, of course, Pumpkin Pie. And in the winter, Chocolate Cream Pie . . .
Ned nodded enthusiastically at the idea, though he said he had never had Pumpkin Pie before. His cousin interjected at that point, arguing that he most certainly had!
So I begin to wonder, on days like this, if my life is just a proverbial bowl of cherries; or, in the words of Mary Engelbreit, “a chair of bowlies”?
But yesterday I received an email that gave me pause. I realized that, in fact, there is a continuity underneath even what feels like a string of scattered-ness in my own life. It was a thank you note from a very special teenager. I began mentoring her when I lived in Afhg@nist@n, going to the school where she was preparing for what she hoped to be a future of studies in the U.S.
I was with her this past winter as we logged into Skype for her interview with the school she hoped to attend. I had just done a mock interview with her and smiled with the certainty that she would fly through the questions, clearly demonstrating her brilliance, and enthusiasm. She did.
Later, once I left the country, we carried on our correspondence via Skype and email. I learned she had been accepted. Next was the visa hurdle. Once more, I did a mock session with her, with similar results. She got the Visa. When I found out that she would be coming for a summer school program, during which I would also be in the U.S., I knew I was meant to get to see her, and began planning the visit. It would come only 2 weeks after her arrival in the country, and I suspected would be timely. That, then, was one of the things that happened this past week—my road trip to spend 2 days with her. And that is what she was thanking me for: the time I had with her.
For all my excitement over M’s future prospects, I have no pie-in-the-sky illusions of smooth sailing. It’s going to be a rough transitional road because, well, she’s “not in Kansas anymore.” She has been given all she could possibly want, so far as material and educational needs go. But this is not home. The night I arrived was swim night for the students. I swim all the time, so wouldn’t have thought about it until now, as I walked around campus with this young woman who completely covers her body still, and who is watching girls her age, in bikinis, splashing about with boys in the swimming pool? And how does she adjust to dining alone at night, meals provided to her to accommodate her month-long fast?
I don’t know the answers. And I will not know them, most likely. I can only trust. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done . . .
July 8, 2013
I didn’t cry this year: this time I laughed my way through the Fourth of July fireworks. I had a little one perched on my shoulders, directing me. “That way!” . . . “Closer!” Where those people are sitting? “Yes!” Ok. “Back to the truck!” Should I walk backwards so you can still see the fireworks? “No!”
She lost interest in the show surprisingly quickly, deciding she was much more interested in her own game of throwing her glow-bracelet as far as she could into the air. I, however, was surprisingly interested in the show. This year I enjoyed it. In fact, I enjoyed two shows. One in Mississippi during the work/training and one last night, after landing here in New Hampshire.
I find myself struggling with a bit of culture shock suddenly. It hadn’t really hit until now, as the past several weeks have been filled with so much travel, work, and planning that I really haven’t had time to think about the cultural shift. The amount of activity has not really changed, but now I am back in some old home territory that has brought up a great deal of memories and emotions in a very short period of time. I am also with family again—this time my mother—and am realizing that as old as a relationship may be, you can never just sit back on your relational laurels: relationships require attention and energy, no matter what age and season of life you find yourself in. At this particular one in my own life, I find I am musing on what it means to be intentional about enjoying the familial relationship. For various reasons, my default mentality for too many years was one of obligation. I did what I felt I was supposed to do with regards to my family members. I tried to please, and tried to do—to be—what was expected. It didn’t occur to me to do anything differently. And I ended up feeling like a very different person when with my family than when in work or social settings. Here again, it did not occur to me that there was anything odd about this.
Now, though, I’m questioning that. Some of my family relationships have felt dramatically different over the past few years, in a very good way. I have been able to broaden my mindset and actually enjoy the relationship, in ways that I had previously assumed could only happen outside of the family. Maybe this is a sign of my delayed maturity. But whatever it means, I want the pattern to continue.
This afternoon I was feeling overwhelmed. Socially spent and out of my comfort zone of routings, I was wanting to escape but not even knowing how to do that. I had in mind a few things that sounded appealing for the chunk of time in between church and our afternoon dinner plans: one involved visiting my workplace/home of 3 years ago and the other involved finding a place to swim. The visit to the Inn was a bit disappointing, as it has changed hands since then and I found little of comfort or familiarity about it. The search for a swimming spot was unsuccessful and I soon petered out in motivation to keep trying on my own. Coming back home, I vented a bit to Mom about the afternoon. I felt a bit silly for my complaints, in that it seemed like mere self-centered goals to have, that sort of deserved to be thwarted. But she seemed un-phased—seemed to sympathize, in fact. “You know,” she said after a moment, “you could just go next door and jump in the neighbor’s pond.” Their pond? I queried. Can you actually swim in it? Mom shrugged. “I do it. I’ll just give her a call and tell her you might be there.” She returned her attention to her husband and I smiled at the happy inspiration.
Yes, that was precisely what I would do. Thinking I should maybe try to not get too dirty, I took my swim cap with my. But once there, I decided that keeping my hair dry would defeat the purpose of cooling off, so I just allowed the pleasure of a full plunge. It was glorious. I actually swam a few laps, wearing my swim goggles and enjoying the view of the pond innards as I did so. When I got out of the water and started the walk back, I saw the neighbor in the pen with the horse. “You didn’t know you had a lap pool, did you?” I joked. As we talked the horse actually escaped from the fence so we spent a few minutes trying to corral “Miss Mary.” I got a nice horse nuzzle then headed back, rejuvenated for the rest of the day’s events . . . and ever so grateful for my Mama ☺
*I didn’t take my camera when I went swimming. But I did have a photo from the parade before the fireworks. I ran after the float to take this picture, thinking that it was just too perfect: my kind of float, I guess :-)