Monday, April 30, 2012

Addendum to the last "Dad" post

I wrote that as a child I loved to be with my dad.  Wherever he was, I wanted to be, too.  He was around more on the weekends, which I liked.  He worked in the yard on Saturdays; he mowed, raked, watered the tomatoes, harvested the green beans and gathered the fallen sticks.  Then he came inside and lay down on the long, green sofa with one arm up behind his head to take a short nap before he started to study his Bible for church the next day.

On Sundays, we went to church.  It was not a gigantic, liturgical, cathedral-like church.  But neither was it a small, casual, carefree sort of church.  It was a beautiful, fairly large, fairly formal church that demonstrated love without sacrificing reverence.

Once, when I was 2, I was sitting in church with my mother.  Everyone bowed their heads to pray, including my mother.

Hearing a familiar voice, I looked up, and there, standing at the pulpit, praying into the microphone was my dad.

I looked over at my mom.  Her eyes were closed in silent meditation.

I slid off the pew and quietly walked up to the front of the church.  I stood next to my dad and took hold of his pants leg.

He finished praying and looked down.  The rest of the congregation finished praying and opened their eyes.  There was Ruthie.

I think everyone laughed, gently.  I did not get into trouble.

Later I sat next to my mom in the pew, using a pencil to draw on the little response card from the small rack on the back of the pew in front of us.  I drew a capital E.  My mind had registered that a capital E looked like a comb, so I drew it with a vertical line on the left, and horizontal lines extending to the right from the top and bottom of the vertical line.  Then I enthusiastically filled it in with a whole bunch of horizontal lines between the top and the bottom lines, like the teeth of a comb.

"What is that?" my mother asked me.

"I made a letter E," I told her.

"Oh...there is only supposed to be one line in the middle, like this," she told me, and wrote a correct E next to my hairy one.  I liked mine better.

I do not know why I always remember this happening on the same Sunday that I went up to the front of church to join my dad in prayer.

Friday, April 27, 2012

My Dad

My dad.

My dad is just great.  He was what I would call, "The Best Dad Ever."  He is kind, calm, wise, loyal and steadfast.  Long before they ever made the poster, he used to say, "I thought I made a mistake once, but I was mistaken."  He wasn't always right (well, probably not...), but seriously, he must have the best track record of anyone I know.

He was a principal.  One of my earliest memories is when he was promoted from being principal of Coon Rapids Junior High to being principal of Coon Rapids Senior High.  Among other things, they gave him a canoe, which we stored behind the garage.

My dad was a great principal.  He kept everything running smoothly.  Of course, when things go the way they should, you never hear much about it.  People just assume that's the way it should be.  They only notice when there is a problem, and then they complain.  There was not much complaining when my dad was principal.  He was that good.  After he retired and the district got a new principal, that's when they realized how great he had been.  But that's life.  I always knew my dad was a great man.

My dad could organize anything and make it work.  He understood crowd psychology and individual psychology, and he had more common sense than it's even fair to put into one person.

He told me that the way to serve a potluck dinner is to make lots and lots of lines.

"Just make sure you get some main dishes and some salads and some desserts in each line," he said.

"But," I said, "then people might not get a chance to take a dish that they wanted, because it is in a different line."

"If you only make one line, " he told me, "the people at the end of the line get nothing.  And what they do get is stone cold.  Would you rather wait for thirty minutes so you could scrape the cold remnants of the dish you wanted out of a mostly empty pan?  Or would you rather wait three minutes for a mildly limited choice of hot, plentiful food?"

I had to admit, he had a point.

When I was in school, there was a rumor that floated around.  It went something like this:  "Don't ever pull a fire alarm.  There is some special, high-tech substance on those alarms, and if you pull one for fun, they can find you and shine a black light on your hand, and it will show up.  It won't matter how much you wash your hands.  It won't come off, and they will catch you."

One day, I mentioned this rumor to my dad and he started to laugh.  Apparently, way back in the past they had been having trouble with kids setting off false fire alarms at his school.  He had a pretty good idea who it was, but he needed proof.  Having painted his way through college, he knew of a type of powder you could add to paint to make it glow in the dark.  He stirred a little of this powder into some Vaseline and planted it on the undersides of the pulls for the fire alarms in his school.  The next time there was a false alarm, they grabbed the kid whom they suspected and took him into a darkened room where they examined his hands for the glow.  Sure enough, he was guilty and they had proof.  My dad.  Genius man.  Root of folklore.  Maintainer of justice.

I thought my dad was the handsomest man in the whole wide world.  I loved his face and his balding head, his blue eyes that tipped down on the outer corners, giving him a particularly kind, calm appearance.  His gentle smile that he saved for people he liked, like me.

He could fix anything.  I loved hanging around him while he worked on stuff.  His garage was so clean and tidy.  He showed me how to plant radishes and tomatoes and beans, how to mix up grout for tile ("It should be just the consistency of shaving cream," he said, stirring it luxuriously).  He taught me how to measure and how to set a nail, and how to turn off the water under the sink or behind the toilet before you did any plumbing.

I spent hours just hanging around, watching him wallpaper or lay tile or dig up shrubs.  Sometimes he'd ask me to do something for him, and I felt so important, so excited to be able to help.  He was very patient and never yelled at me.

He built me a playhouse, all by himself.  He even designed it.

When I was little, every night after dinner he would give me a reading lesson while my mother did the dishes.  I sat in his lap, and we read The Cat in the Hat and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish and Go Dog Go.  Sometimes he read me longer stories.  I loved to listen to him read.

After story time, he usually gave me my bath.  By the time I was three-and-a-half or four, I had long hair, and back then it was rather thick, too.  Dad washed it with Breck shampoo, dipping me down into the water on my back and lifting me up to check to see whether the suds were rinsed out.  We always had to do this a number of times to get rid of all the soap, and he made a game of it:  "Way down in value," he would say as he dipped me down.  "Way up in cost," as he raised me up.  Or he would change it up, "Way down in cost... way up in value," and sometimes even "Way down in value, way down in cost," followed by, "Way up in cost, way up in value."

One night (this was probably when I was four), I surprised him by saying, "We like it best when it is way down in cost, way up in value, right Dad?"  He laughed and said, "You figured that out?  How did you figure that out?"  I thought it was pretty straightforward, but I was absolutely delighted that he thought I was smart.

When I was about five, he told me I was big now, and needed to take my bath by myself.  I said, "How will I get all the soap out?"  He said, "You can do it."  I found out I could, but my baths took a lot longer when I took them by myself, and it took me awhile to get used to being all by myself in there.  I was one to stay in the tub until my fingers and toes completely wizened up, so my dad called me Prune.  That was his name for me, Prune.

He sang me hymns before I went to sleep at night.  I liked, "Mercy there was great and grace was free, pardon there was multiplied to me..."  I heard it as "Pardon there was MALT-i-plied to me," and once I said, "Please sing me the one about the malt shop."  It took him awhile to figure that out, but he did.  I cannot hear that hymn without having fond memories of Dad tucking me in to bed.

I liked to be with my dad whenever I could, so weekends were great.  Being a principal, most weekday evenings he went back to school for a school function, a game or a concert or whatever was going on.  When I got old enough, he'd often take me with him.  Sitting next to him on the bleachers, I learned rules and strategies for football, basketball and baseball.  "Baseball is all strategy, " Dad told me, "almost like chess."  He'd tell me what they were going to do next, and they always did.  During a football game, I once told him, "I like when they line up and knock each other down, but why does it take them so long to measure in between?"  He laughed at me.  It felt so good when he laughed at me.  I grew up cheering for the Coon Rapids Cardinals, which made it just slightly awkward when I became an Anoka Tornado.

Dad also took me to plays at his school.  That was my favorite!  I remember walking into the lobby with him, the white and gray terrazzo floor,  how he would buy our tickets.  I never thought he should have to pay, but he always did, to support his school.  They had a beautiful thrust stage; he was really proud of that stage.  Oddly, I do not remember specific plays I saw, but I remember being absolutely enchanted.

Often, if Dad was home in the evening, we would sit together on the long, green sofa and I would nestle up against his right arm and shoulder.  He would read his Bible, and I would read my homework, and we were just there together, quiet.

Once when I was in college, during finals week (I lived at home and commuted), I was near tears with anxiety over an upcoming exam.  In a calm, ever-so-slightly-gruff voice, he told me, "You'll do fine.  You know a lot more than you think you do."  Since he was always right, I believed him.  And I did do fine. 

My dad is just great.

My dad.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How I met your father

If I can even remember this story...

I really wanted to tell a story.  It seems like it's been a long time.

I remember my high school graduation ceremony.  We sat out on the football field which was actually at Fred Moore Junior High School.  Fred Moore had the swimming pool, too.  And he was my uncle, but that's beside the point.  Fred Moore (the school, not my uncle) was in Anoka, right in town.  The high school was out Seventh Avenue, a new, modern building in the eighties.  For gym class, you could take canoeing on the high school campus, but when we did swimming, they bussed us into town, to Fred Moore.

I digress.

Anyway, on the evening of our graduation we sat out on the Fred Moore football field, uncomfortable metal folding chairs under our behinds and dark, damp grass under our feet.  The sky was black; beneath it, stadium lights glared down on us.  I don't know how many people were in my graduating class.  Probably about 800.  Being an introvert, I knew approximately fifteen of them.

During the graduation, different people spoke.  I suppose there was some music, but I don't remember it.  Our parents sat in the bleachers, the ones where we had all attended football games, under which much teenage sin had taken place over the years.

I tuned out.  There in a sea of eighteen-year-olds clad in burgundy caps and gowns, I felt utterly alone and miserable.  "I have to go to college," I thought.  "Why are people celebrating?  What's to celebrate?  Now we just have to go to college, and it is going to be even harder than high school, and it will cost money."

They started calling names.  People began to walk the stage.  Hooting and cheering filled the stadium.  I thought, "Stupid fools."  I know that is not a very Christian thought.  I was not very mature in Christ at that point in my life.  Also I was bored and scared, an awful combination of emotions.

I don't remember actually walking.  I just remember sitting there on that uncomfortable metal chair with gnats around my head, noticing how the stadium lights clearly articulated each blade of grass as the night dew condensed.

At the kitchen table at home, my father told me, "When you get to college, you need to join a Christian organization."

I was going to the University of Minnesota, a megatropolis of academia.  I was going there because
(a) it was my cheapest option,
(b) I did not want to go to college, and expected that I would be miserable, and
(c) I wanted to spend as little money as possible making myself miserable.

My dad was all about helping me find friends, about making this gargantuan campus of over 60,000 students (his own Alma Mater) a small and friendly place.  "Find a Christian organization," he told me.  "The Navigators are the best.  If you can't find them, sign up with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.  And if you can't find them, I guess Campus Crusade is all right."

Dutifully, upon beginning college, I checked the posted signs in Coffman Student Union for information about Christan groups on campus.   I didn't find any Navigators, so I ran my finger down the list a second time, looking for Intervarsity.  It was there.  I compared the times Bible studies were offered against my class schedule and picked a group that I thought would work.

Let me insert here:  I did not date.  I was not the dating type.  I do not know if this was because I was ugly, or because I was shy, or because I was too serious.  Perhaps I stank.  I'm not sure what the issue was, but I did not date, and I had never had a boyfriend.  Also, my dad wanted me to be a doctor (never mind that I go all woozy at the sight of any injury).

So I went to the first meeting of the Intervarsity Bible study.  It was not their main meeting, which I quickly learned was held at a different time in a larger room.  This was just a small-group Bible study, and only two others attended besides me.  They were the co-leaders, Steve and a girl whose name I can't remember.  They said, "Let's go around and introduce ourselves and tell a little about ourselves."

Steve went first.  He said, "My name is Steve.  I'm a junior in Computer Engineering, and I have a girlfriend named Nancy."

Then the girl went (I am totally making up all the specifics here): "Hi, my name is Lori.  I'm a senior studying Nursing, and I have boyfriend named Joe."

Following their pattern, I said, "Hi, my name is Ruth.  I'm a freshman with an undeclared major, and I don't have a boyfriend."  Then I realized how dumb that must sound, so I tried to backpedal.  I continued desperately, "My dad doesn't want me to have a boyfriend.  He wants me to focus on my schoolwork.  He wants me to be a doctor."

I think it is even worse to recall such a conversation at age 46 than it was to be there in the moment.

Kindly, they just laughed.  Steve said, "Oh, we'll get you a boyfriend."

I said, "No, really.  Please.  My dad doesn't want that."  Awkward.

The next week I was running late for the meeting.  I had long, fine, thin hair which I still wore in plastic barrettes, pulled back above my ears on the sides.  My bangs were cut and curled to be fluffy 80's bangs, except that nothing about my hair ever has been or ever will be fluffy.  I wore jeans, sneakers and a red windbreaker, not enough to combat the chill on that windy October day.  I remember running breathlessly over the Washington Avenue pedestrian bridge to the Union, my nose and cheeks windburned, and my hair hopelessly tangled.  I was huffing and puffing as I tore up the stairs to the room where our Bible study was scheduled to meet.

I opened the door, and there at the table with their Bibles were Steve, Lori, and this tall guy sporting a clean-cut haircut, a letter jacket and white high-tops with red laces.

My backpack slid off my shoulder and hit the floor.

"Oh my word, Steve, I'm going to kill you," I thought.

Actually, a jumble of thoughts raced through my brain cells:  "That didn't take them long,"  and "Really?" and "I wonder if there is snot running out of my nose..." (you know how that happens when you enter a warm room after exerting yourself in cold weather?) and... "This is so stupid.  Well, I might as well do the Meagan experiment."

Meagan was a sweet five-year-old whom I babysat the previous summer.  "Do you have a boyfriend, Ruth?" she used to ask me.  She would sit on my lap and play with my long hair, braiding and unbraiding, making it even stringier than it already was, and she would say, "But you're so pretty.  You need to have a boyfriend."

When you have never been pretty in your life, it is a nice feeling to have a five-year-old idolize you, however misguided you know she must be.

"This is what you need to do," Meagan used to say.  Meagan, my relationship counselor.  "When you meet that boy, you just have to look right straight into his eyes with your beautiful big, brown eyes.  Just like this..." and she would peer earnestly into my face with her lovely little-girl freckle-rimmed eyes.  "And then..." she could barely contain herself, "and then he will look into your eyes and he will see how beautiful they are, and he will just go... 'awwww'... and he will fall right in love with you.  Just like that."  She batted her eyelids and folded her hands beneath her chin.

So you see, I figured I had nothing to lose.  It was all too awful and awkward and annoying, so I just sat down, got out my Bible and looked right straight into the eyes of this tall kid.

I was not much for looking deep into people's eyes.  I'm still not, to tell the truth.  It was quite a startling experience.  I don't think I'd ever done such a thing before.

He looked back at me.  His eyes were steely blue above high cheekbones.  He had beautiful Scandinavian coloring and strong features, a strong chin and forehead.  The irises of his eyes were very round in his strong, Scandinavian face.  He met my eyes and he held them with his gaze.  My stomach flipped a little.  I thought, "This is too weird.  Do I like this?  I'm not sure.  Maybe I do."

His name was Shawn.  He was a sophomore studying Electrical Engineering.  He did not have a girlfriend.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Searching for my stride

Ugh.  Blogger just changed everything.  Everything looks totally different behind the scenes.  Can I even figure this out?

I am far too old for this.

For Lent, I gave up Facebook.  I love doing that, because it really helps me blog.  Somehow, Facebook has a way of sucking up all my blogging time.  I think,  "I will just go there for a moment, check my notifications and leave, you know?"  And then I never do.  Leave, I mean.  Facebook has sucked an obscene amount of my life away.

And yet, I feel that Facebook is somehow less narcissistic than blogging.  On Facebook I can say hi to people who live far away.  I can wish people a happy birthday and maybe even encourage someone who is going through something I've gone through.  I can learn about prayer requests, pray for people, and let my friends know when I am praying for them.

On Blogger, I just write, because writing is what I love to do.  Once long ago, I was pretty good at writing.  Looking back at some of my old work makes me feel like the character in "Flowers for Algernon."  Seriously.  I used words that I don't even know anymore.

Lately, the stories I want to tell and the ideas I want to explore are just too big.  I am so tired.  I just get more tired every day.  Sometimes I pray and say, "Jesus, if I die, that's OK.  I'm OK with whatever.  If I don't see my children married and my grandchildren born, it's all OK.  I love you, Jesus."  This is not so much because I hurt or feel sick, just because my energy is seeping away and I can't imagine how long I can go on like this.  So tired.  I wonder whether I will die before I go bald, or go bald before I die.  Part of what makes me so tired is trying to clean up after all the hairs that incessantly fall off my head.

Today I scrubbed the tub and showers.  I used to do this once a week, or once every-other week, at least.  Then it fell to more like once a month (thank goodness we'd installed a water softener by then, and the scum wasn't building up much).  This last time, I think it went something like two months.  My back and neck went out in March, and I've been waiting and waiting to improve, for my left arm to stop aching.  Yesterday I looked at the condition of the bathrooms, and I decided that aching arm or not, it must be done.  So I did it.  When DJ comes home from campus and asks me what I did today, I can tell him that I scrubbed the tub and showers. 

I also did laundry and started a corned beef.  I did not, however, make it to the store, and we are out of a few things.  On the bright side, we have corned beef, and we will eat tonight.

Yesterday I bought bananas at the store and they punched the code in all wrong.  They charged me for "sno pea leaf" which (whatever it is) costs $5.99 per pound.  Bananas are 44 cents per pound.  What should have cost me $2.04 came to $27.73.  So, besides getting some things we are out of (most traumatically, puppy treats),  I need to go get my $25 back from the wrong charges.  Oh joy.

Well, this was a whiny one, eh?  Just imagine how bad it would have been had I written it in a private notebook and not in a public forum.

The lemons are wizening up in the fruit bowl.  Ice has been spitting down from on high at random intervals all day, pelting the poor little spring leaves and blossoms.  I need to send back our Netflick.  I bought a van yesterday.

Oh yes, I bought a van.  My husband is proud of me.  I am still second-guessing the whole thing.  My husband is in Baltimore for the week, which is why I had to buy the van.  I used to be so frightened when he traveled.  Funny how things change when you have two great big sons living with you.. two great, big, tall, muscular sons who love your cooking.

This is Jon, last year at the beach.  You can see his muscles here, but not how tall he is.  He is 6'4".  He has a black belt in karate.

This is DJ recovering on the floor of the dining room after a massive intake of turkey last Thanksgiving.  He is 6'1", 190 pounds, and he lifts weights nearly every day.  Although he did not dress for dinner, I love him very much.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sermon illustration

Yesterday our pastor spoke on Hebrews 5:11-6:2.

(aside: that means next week will be really interesting.)

Our pastor spoke about being dull of hearing, and what makes us that way. The Hebrews, you see, were dull of hearing so that they were unable to receive the teaching they needed to receive. The author is trying to teach them truths about the priesthood of Melchizadek, but they are not ready for these truths, they are dull of hearing. They are not where they should be in their Christian lives.

At the end of chapter 6, the author will come back to Melchizadek. This is after he has reprimanded his readers for not maturing as they ought, for being dull of hearing.

Our pastor said that there are two reasons why we become dull of hearing.

The first is because we spend extended time under instruction without growing. I think what he meant is that we fail to self-feed. We go to church week after week, and listen to a sermon and sing some songs that make us feel good. But then we just, you know, go home and watch football and make chocolate chip cookies. We don't apply what we learn. We don't put it into action. We don't spend time reading the Bible, praying, seeking God, loving our neighbors and sharing the good news. We just coast until the next Sunday services. In the meantime, we may not steal anything, or commit adultery or murder. We watch the news and see the horrible things people do, and we pat ourselves on the back for not being like that. (Remember the pharisee of Luke 18:9-14? We do kind of like he did.)

This is pretty insidious. But the second reason is even more so. The second reason why we become dull of hearing is that we become "epic passage people." (I think that's what my pastor called it.)

I've sort of written on this before, maybe a couple of times. It's where we just pick the nice passages that we like: the Lord's prayer, Psalm 23, John 3:16. We just read those, because they are easy to understand, and God is nice in them, and they make us feel good. We want to control which parts of the Bible we expose ourselves to, and thus design our own image of God, one that is cozy and comfortable and complimentary. And once we have formed our own paradigm for who God is, we become inoculated against the truth. This, above all else, makes us dull of hearing.

My pastor used what I thought was an ingenious analogy to explain the process. He compared Christian growth to learning to be a good musician. This spoke to me, not because I am a good musician (I am NOT!), but because we have undertaken a tremendous amount of music instruction for our children in this house.

When you are an epic passage person, you are like the music student who enjoys playing the pieces he plays well... in fact, you are like the music student who enjoys playing the parts of the pieces where he most excels in his playing. When he gets to the more tricky parts, he either glosses over them, making the same mistakes time and time again, or he skips them altogether.

I have four children, and of them, the one who most excels at music has a distinctly different practicing style. He drills the hard parts. He does not waste time playing the easy parts. In fact, he has been heard reprimanding his siblings, "Why do you keep playing that? You already know that! You are never going to get better unless you spend your time on the hard parts!"

(aside: it is a shame that tact and truth are so easily separated; were this not the case, much more good would arise in the world.)

Yes, DJ plays the hard parts and basically ignores the easy parts. Once when he was younger, I went to his piano recital and he played a piece, "Cat and Mouse," which I swear I never heard him play at home. He had certainly drilled the difficult passages, but he had never played through the whole song in our living room. It was a delightful piece. You could hear the mouse dancing around out of reach of the cat, and the cat coming after it. But I had never heard it until DJ sat down in the recital auditorium to play it. I was blown away.

For his spring jury this past year, we had a similar experience. DJ played a very difficult saxophone piece. He drilled the most impossible passages over and over and over until I thought I would put my fist through the wall. But after he played for his jury (which we did not have the good fortune to hear), staff from the college came to us, raving about how wonderfully he played.

It is when we wrestle with difficult parts of scripture and figure out how they fit into God's story of salvation, that is when we grow and mature. We grow when we take all the truths about God and work out how things that seem to conflict really fit together.

I get a little impatient when people say, "I don't want to study just scripture. I need application."

Bosh. All scripture is applicable, if you will just take the time to work with it and learn it.

A few years ago, I taught a study on Job. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I did not particularly enjoy my background study at home during the week. I may have been borderline depressed.

But we studied it. We took it and we wrestled with it, and God met us and spoke to us and taught us through the power of His Spirit.

I think it is all right that I should share this next thing.

I was in the grocery store about a week ago, and sweet lady who attended the Job study was sitting on a bench, taking her break (she works there). "Hi Ruth!" she called out to me, "You probably don't remember me..." But I did. I remembered her face, her eyes. You remember the ones who make eye contact while you teach.

She told me that she felt that she had been through a Job experience. She said, "I think sometimes God teaches you something, and then afterwards, He gives you a chance to practice it in your life."

Some people may have thought that we were not being practical or applicable when we studied Job... but here, in front of me, was solid evidence that God's word does not go out and return void. This woman studied Job. Then she suffered. And in her suffering, she was able to remember that suffering doesn't mean God has abandoned you. It doesn't mean that God doesn't love you. It doesn't necessarily mean that you are being punished for a terrible sin.

Suffering can just be a way that God is working in your life, pulling you close to Himself, making you learn to depend on Him, strengthening your faith and purifying it. She had learned this, from God's word. When her life then threw challenges at her, she was strengthened for the circumstances. She did not say, "Why me? This isn't fair!" Her faith persevered. She did not abandon hope.

This is the opposite of being dull of hearing. This is where the hard work pays off. This is playing the music for an audience and owning it.

Can I admit? I don't really like being strengthened for the hard things. The whole time I was teaching Job, I had a dread of what was to come, what these lessons were preparing us for, what would happen to me next. I am the biggest wimp in the world. I am not a thrill seeker.

God is good. He is not always nice, in ways that we perceive niceness, but He is good.

I don't so much mind the basic training, but I am a coward about the upcoming combat. I need a more vivid vision of God's victorious plan for the world and the blessing He bestows on me by allowing me to be a part of it.

That's one reason why I write the things I write on my blogs. If they start persecuting Christians, I want there to be plenty of evidence to convict me. I don't want to leave things open to my weaseling out and denying my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Home again

This weekend we took Jonathan on a college visit to Laura's college.

It was fun. I had been looking forward to it. I love to see Laura, and I love her school.

Whilst promenading around the beautiful campus, sniffing fresh mulch around spring flowers, appreciating the tiny new leaves, gazing from the bridge across the creek to the beautifully manicured athletic fields, I can never help but wonder. I wonder how my life would have been different had I gone to a small, private Christian college instead of to a state university with a student body of 60,000.

The road not taken.

It probably doesn't do to think on such things. It might even be a sin.

We used to joke about how we are a family of introverts, and how poor Jonathan was withering among us, the lone extrovert. Then Lulubelle up and went off to college and discovered that she is an extrovert, too.

I see her taking on leadership roles, working on committees, developing networks of friends. She makes decisions and owns them. She manages her life all on her own (but her dad still does her taxes). Her support system, which is wide, does not necessarily include me anymore.

I sat in her dorm room and looked around at the pictures on the walls (largely beaches), the Bible verses on notecards she has pinned over her bed, the accessories hanging from Command hooks on the walls, the closet full of clothes (most hers, some borrowed). I tried to imagine myself at that age, living in that environment. I felt a little bit sick.

I see the person she is becoming, someone I hardly know sometimes, and the friendships she is enjoying, and I wonder if I would have been a different person if I had gone to a different college. Maybe I would have been more outgoing, more courageous, more optimistic, more social.

Maybe, maybe not.

I have to trust that God worked in my circumstances to form me into the person He wanted me to be. I have to believe this for myself and for all of my family.

It can be easy to think that one mistake can ruin your life forever and always, that if you don't get everything just exactly right, you will miss God's best plan for your life. It is easy to sink into feelings of guilt and fear and regret.

But then you need to ask yourself these questions: Do you or do you not believe that God is sovereign? Is God in control? Does God keep His promises?

I do believe that God is sovereign. He is in control of everything. He is all-powerful. Nothing can thwart His eternal plans.

Not even me, making a "wrong" choice.

God's word says that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

All things work together for good. That means that I should never look at my life and think, "I am missing out on God's blessings because I made the wrong decision about __(fill in the blank)__ thirty-odd years ago."

Because God does keep His promises. If He said it, you can bank on it.

Strange that this is what I wrote. I was going to write about an experience at the breakfast buffet at the Hampton Inn where we stayed, something dumb that just stuck in my head, images and words.

An overly friendly lady saw me plopping some runny gray oatmeal into my paper bowl. "Oatmeal!" she said. "I have oatmeal every day. Today I thought I'd go out on a limb and live a little, try something different!"

I rarely eat oatmeal for breakfast. I pretty much despise it. But I try really hard to stay away from simple carbs, white flour and white sugar. And the scrambled eggs in the warming pan looked like they came from a carton. I was just trying to find something to eat that wouldn't leave me with an all-day belly ache. I wanted to tell her, "I eat a kefir smoothie and a piece of whole grain toast with sunbutter every morning, but they clearly don't have that here, so this is my next best option." Instead, I said nothing. I didn't know what to say. It was early, and I am neither a morning person nor an extrovert.

Also, I don't generally consider hotel breakfast buffets as an opportunity to treat myself in life and "live a little." If I wanted a breakfast treat, I would go somewhere I could order what I wanted off a menu, cooked fresh and not served on paper plates with plastic spoons, forks and knives.

And I wonder who I am, who I am becoming? Do I live, or do I just survive, trying my best to coddle along my aching shoulders and fussy digestion in hopes of avoiding as much discomfort as possible?

It is very tempting to think that I missed something long ago that I am paying for now. This is a battle I face, probably almost daily.

I pray God to show me what He wants from me, to strengthen me with the fortitude to complete it, to fill me with joy. I pray God to help me trust in His promises and to believe that He is able to shape me into the woman He wants me to be.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Stream of consciousness

Today I woke up wishing for goat cheese.

This makes me sound like a fancy and sophisticated person, which I am not. In fact, I never even had goat cheese in my life until yesterday.

And the goat cheese I had, I bought at Aldi.

So give up your impression of me as a world class gourmet. I am just a cheap shopper who picked up a log of goat cheese with cranberries and cinnamon... and found that it was delicious. Delicious.

And now I have to go and put my white blazer, that I wore for Easter, into the dryer. Because I am washing it at home, even though at first glance you would think it ought to be dry-cleaned. I read the tag. It says, "Machine wash cold, gentle cycle, tumble dry low."

It will never be the same, shiny and crisp, but that's OK. Nothing ever is. And I don't know why I ever buy anything white.

I will put it into the dryer, and I will try to ride the exercise bike whilst reading The Hunger Games. I do not know how this will go.

My shoulder keeps popping. Shawn says I should go to the doctor.

Schubert is outside, howling. I suppose I'd better get him in before I embark on my next project.

I feel fat. I just ate four crackers with goat cheese and two helpings of sweet potatoes left over from Easter dinner.