Friday, July 30, 2010

Act your age!

I come from a long line of women who refused to act their age.  I have looked at pictures of my grandmother Mammy and realized that she did not have grey hair until she was in her 70s…..and she never dyed it.  Indeed, she envied women who, at that time, had blue hair from a bottle.  She was told at the age of 35 that she had rheumatoid arthritis and that she would soon be in a wheelchair.  I think that she might have spit on the doctor who told her that.  She hobbled around until the age of 81, working hard until just hours before her death.   I know how hard she worked.  She lived with us from before I was born.  I used to wake up in the middle of the night to the smell of brownies.  When she hurt bad enough not to sleep, she just got up and baked or sewed or sent out get-well cards to people who were sick.  “No sense just lying there,” she would say.  “I could be doing something.”  My mother said that when the paramedics came to take her to the hospital after her heart attack, she fought them off.  It was her 81st birthday, and she never did see the likes of a wheelchair.

My mother married late and did not have her first child until a couple days after she turned 32.  At that time, there were women at that age who were pretty close to becoming grandmothers.  She was always conscious of her age and kept it hidden under lock and key.  She decided in her late 30s that she would be better off being blond than grey, and so, she bleached her jet-black hair.  She was an ash-blond until just a year before she died at the age of 83.  She never used her senior-citizen card even in her late 70s, foregoing eligible discounts, because she didn’t want anyone to know how old she was.  She kept my grandmother’s old coats in her closet, you know the curly wool ones with the fur collars, for when she got old.  Needless to say, she gave them away to someone who needed them more. 

I took heart when I turned 40 and met my Kansas City neighbor’s mom, who at that time was, I guess, late 50s or early 60s.  She was a grandmother.  And she still wore blue jeans and Birkenstocks.  That encouraged me.  Old doesn’t have to be old.

So, here I am today, turning 57 years old.  At one point, a 57 year old grandmother sounded really really old.  But I read the other day that the oldest woman in the world right now is 114.  I am just to the halfway point.  My to-do list just keeps getting longer.  Family sweeter.  Friendships deeper.  And God even more amazing.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

When in the cellar, walk towards the light

When we lived in Cincinnati, we had a basement that was REALLY dark and, to complicate matters, the main light switch was at the top of the stairs.  All too often, someone on the first floor would switch off the basement lights, thinking that they had just been left on, when indeed, there was someone actually down there.   And then the person below would be PLUNGED into deep darkness. 


I told the girls that when that happened, don’t just stand there yelling for someone to turn on the lights.   Look for what light there is and “walk towards the light.”  That little teeny bit of light coming from the stairwell was where they could find their way out.


Most likely, someone today reading this blog has found themselves PLUNGED in a dark place.  There are deep shadows and scary places and you just know that you are no more than three inches from a large hairy spider.  Panic seeps into your pores.  Your first impulse is to let fear paralyze you and pull you under.  Don’t fool yourselves and be deceived into thinking that you are the only one who struggles with that “overwhelmy” feeling.  We have ALL been there, baby.  It is no coincidence that God’s Word is filled to the brim with references to light.  Because this darkness stuff is nothing new.   Indeed, I recently heard a pastor say that “fear not” appears 365 times in God’s Word, one for every day of the year.  You can sit there cross-legged in the gloom… or grab hold of God’s promises and walk towards the light.


How do you see differently by His light?  It is based not on circumstances, but on the reality of Who He is.  It is not just a temporary way out, but a way to live.  “Yea, You light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness.” (Psalm 18.28)   God will use it to guide you.  “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119.105)  Keep your eyes on Him.  Recite His Word.  Not to remind God of His promises and presence, but to remind us.  Sing Scripture verses, if necessary, OUTLOUD  in the face of the darkness and in the face of your worst enemies of fear and despair. 

“For we are powerless against this great multitude that is coming against us.  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.”  (2 Chronicles 20.12) 

Walk towards the light. 

Friday, July 23, 2010

What I learned about temptation from a Costco coupon

Last month, I received some Costco coupons in the mail.  I always glance through them to check out discounts on products that I buy there on a regular basis.  But this time, I hit the jackpot.  My eyes were drawn to a coupon for $2.50 off a bag of peanut M & Ms.  Now, of course, realize that this is the Costco-size bag of M & Ms which can feed several high school cross country teams and still have leftovers.  I read somewhere once that peanut M & Ms are the worst possible candy for you.  And of course, they are my favorite.


It was tempting, and I knew it.  Temptation?  I am not sure that there were peanut M & Ms in ancient Corinth, but the apostle Paul nailed it in no uncertain terms:  “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10.13)


Needless to say, I wasn’t looking for a way of escape.  It surprised me how quickly, from the very first moment, I was looking for a way to justify purchasing a bag.  “Justifying” is our way of concocting something to make it look right, especially when it isn’t.  When your brain goes into the justification search mode, you know that you are messin' with a bad dog.   What a great deal, I told myself, maybe even out loud.  I could buy them for Bill.   Did I really even think that?  I knew instantly that bird had no wings.  I could make my friend Becky’s Monster Cookies with them, which I have made maybe twice in the past six years.  They would be great for taking on hikes.  Everybody loves them.  Well, more specifically, I love them.  And since the bag is so enormous, who would know when a few here and there would disappear?  It is also always interesting to see when you are tempted, how many people cheer you on – mostly in an effort to justify their own indulgences.  A temptation always looks so good and always promises more than it can possibly deliver.  


I was not looking for a pass through the mountains.  I was ready to scale Everest.  Barefoot, if necessary.


So whether you are tempted by M & Ms, a movie that might not be good for you to watch, a pair of awesome shoes that you don’t need and can’t afford, a relationship that isn’t in your best interest,  we ALL have our soft spots and Satan knows exactly what they are.  Indeed, there are actually studies being done by researchers to identify exactly where in a store a consumer is most likely to buy chocolate.  I am not making this up.  You can probably find -- make that always find -- the means to justify your actions.  But that doesn’t make it right.  LOOK for the closest exit near you, as they say every time you board a plane.  Flee and don’t look back.  The way of escape is there – we just all too often look the other way.  “But my eyes are toward You, O LORD God, in You I seek refuge, leave me not defenseless!  Keep me from the trap which they have laid for me, and from the snares of evildoers!”  Psalm 141. 8-9


Eve didn’t have a Costco coupon for that apple.  It won’t matter, she said.  No one will know.  But oh, what a mess she left behind.  A temptation always does.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Not on the Map

There are times when the path is straight and obvious and paved with gold.  We witnessed that about a year ago when Bill’s job out of the blue was transferred – out of all the places on earth –to seven miles from where our first grandbaby Maggie would be born.  People who heard our story, even people we did not know, marveled and said, “Look at God’s hand in this.”  We rejoiced daily for the opportunity to live so close to three of our girls and our latest little sweetie pie.  Grandparenting has exceeded our expectations, and we looked forward to baking cookies, spontaneous visits to the zoo, and our time-honored family ritual of Saturday morning pancakes.  The puzzle piece fit perfectly into our desire to be an active part of our grandchildren’s lives.  We were ready to tack on this story, “And they lived happily ever after.”


There are times when the path is sweet and evident.  But there also are times when you just have to trust the LORD, hold onto Him with both hands, and KNOW that His hand is still upon you.  This is one of them.  Last week Beth and Gary’s house went on the market.  It’s official.  The sign is in the yard.  They are moving to Cleveland.  Gary has been blessed with a new position which will, so to speak, enlarge his tent.  We will go from seeing Maggie sometimes several times a day to now several times a year.  She will not live so close that I can stop by on a run or errands.  She will be six hours away on the interstate highway headed due East.


And still, God is in control.  When Beth and Gary first told us of their impending move, the thought crossed my mind, “I have seen too much to question God in this.”  There have been a lot of twists and turns on our path when we could not see what was coming.  This is another.  A couple of weeks ago, Bill and I were hiking a trail in the Smokies which turned out to be not what we expected.  According to the trailbook, it was a pleasant walk in the National Park, not too long, not too steep, with scenic stream crossings and groves of trees.  We forgot to bring our hiking poles, but that was ok, because about halfway into the hike, we realized that we needed a chainsaw instead.  It had been a hard winter, and there were trees and branches down across the trail, making it difficult to pass through, and in a few places, difficult to even see the trail at all.  It was not what we anticipated.  And yet, it was still a trail.   Sometimes you just have to hang in there.


And so, the adventure continues, not as we would have chosen from where we stand now, not as we expected, another path branching off from this one.  We rejoice in the seven months that we have lived close to Maggie, Beth and Gary.  We rejoice that Laura and Hannah are nearby.  And we rejoice because we know that God knows what He is doing…and we don’t.  We can’t see clearly the path that we are on…not any one of us.    And so, this posting is not a “Woe is me,” but “Whoa, God is God.”  He just has to remind us of that ever so often.  And that the story is not over yet.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On This Day

On this day, forty-one years ago, I was sitting in our linoleum-tiled basement watching television with my grandmother.  As we watched Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, she remarked, “And to think in my lifetime I went from covered wagon to seeing a man walking on the moon.”


I know that I have written about my grandmother before and this incident which still stands so fresh in my mind.  But this year, I viewed it for the first time from a different perspective.  Because this year, I am a grandmother.  And I wonder what Maggie will remember when she is my age, what Maggie will think outlandish (already she looks at the little corded toy telephone and wonders what the receiver is). and  I wonder what stories Maggie will tell to her grandchildren.


What stories are we leaving for those who come after us?  Funny incidents, family adventures, and, I hope, the stories of God’s faithfulness which we all experience.  Because, as our daughter Hannah said when she was nine, “every day is a story of God’s faithfulness.”  And those things are worth repeating.