Sunday, February 11, 2007

Renewal

I can't remember the last time I had so much space between posts. I must have been busy. Hmm. I wonder what I've been doing?

All week I've had things floating in my head that were oh so important to share, and now that I'm sitting here? It's gone. It's Swiss cheese, my brain. So sad.

Q's Prevacid dose was doubled this week. He seems to be less cranky about being horizontal, so I'm really happy about that. This translates into more time with him actually sleeping which is so nice that I'm not sure I can really tell you how I feel about it. Relief doesn't begin to do it justice. Perhaps it's that I feel more sane with more sleep for both of us?

Yesterday was a big day for all of us. The events of the day seemed to sort of tie up all sorts of things I've been thinking on. It all left me thinking about how weird and wonderful it is that God's universe conspires to pull information together, to lay certain issues at my feet, to teach me stuff I didn't think I'd need to know. And, then, to carry all my newfound whatever it is into newer, stranger avenues that I'd never have thought to peer down on my own.

Church was awesome. I'm hoping that someone will host an audio file of the sermon so I can share a link. I doubt that the rest of the planet will feel precisely the same way I did hearing his words, but what I got to hear of the sermon washed over me like a healing rain (with apologies to MW Smith).

The speaker grew up in Croatia as a secular Muslim. He talked about how his family would roast pork for Christmas and if they'd only had someone Jewish in the group, they could've had some good dancing for a Jewish festival. (This cracks me up--probably more than it should.) As a young man, he converted to Christianity and his family engaged in a group meltdown. His mother lost it, they called in all his ex-girlfriends to cajole him out of his new nuttiness. Nothing was working. Someone found the local Imam and brought him over, saying, rather too brightly, "You'll like him--he's vegetarian, like you!!"

So the Imam comes over and goes into the room where the beleaguered new Christian is awaiting this latest onslaught. He closes the door, sits down. They chat. The Imam says, "I'm so glad you're a believer." He gives him a few minutes to rest and then leaves.

Wow. I'm still thinking about what to do with that part of the story.

The rest of the sermon was great, too. Between the girls being off to practice in the children's choir, G being old enough to sit and really listen, and Q being happy just to snuggle, I actually got to hear most of it. The words blew open doors to new corridors of thought for me; really challenging what I take for granted in my belief. The speaker also spoke about how Christianity itself has become for many an idol that obscures the face of God and discourages earnest seeking.

We had potluck (always an adventure), then went on to make cards for seniors as part of an outreach program. While the ladies were starting that, a piano concert was beginning in the sanctuary. An hour of four hands on two pianos. G sat for all of it--there was a break in the middle, at which point he and his friends and Grandpa headed up to the balcony for a better view. The boys (11, 10, and a new friend, 8) all take lessons themselves, and so were rather more attentive than they might have been otherwise. I whispered to them between pieces in the first half that when I get to listen to music like this, it makes my fingers want to move with the notes. The 10 yr old turned to me a couple of minutes later and said, eyes wide, "My fingers are itching to play."

Awesome.

So I left the gentlemen to listen and headed into the chapel to glue ribbon and twizzle Prismacolor pencils. 'Twas a lovely little opportunity for creativity. We all felt renewed when we were done. Except maybe for my mom, whose responsibility it was to gather and haul all the supplies. When we were done, there were more than 60 cards to give.

While working on cards, I got to talking with a lovely new friend. She's nearing the end of her undergrad and looking into the future to an MD/PhD program. Her interests? Pretty much neurology, and the training of doctors. Both topics terribly close to home for me. We had a fascinating chat. She will be a brilliant physician and her patients will love her. I do not exaggerate.

Yesterday also brought unexpected contacts with old friends. One from high school, one from college. Odd, the way these things happen, isn't it? One's just toodling along, and suddenly, ta da! A blast from the past, as it were.

We finally had all our stuff loaded up and headed home. As we were flying down the freeway, Switchfoot's song "This is your life" came on the radio. It was a fitting soundtrack to what I've been ruminating on these days.

This is your life
Are you who you want to be?
This is your life
Is it everything you've dreamed it would be
When the world was younger and you had everything to lose?
Don't close your eyes
Don't close your eyes. . .

I suppose one could make the argument that those words are scary. That those thoughts and questions open the door to discontent. I don't choose that fork in the path. There seems to be something about the planet, this age, this place in life that has brought on an en masse mid-life crisis. There's a lot to question. But looking around and realizing that nothing is as easy, shiny, or outright fun as we thought it should have become by now, what with all this gut-busting work we've poured into our lives, should not be cause for despair.

We're still drawing breath. We still have the power to choose our outlook, our impact, our legacy. Self-determination is a gift. Not everyone seems to be capable of using it well. But most of us are. It is an exciting thing, to dwell in this land of possibility.

This last week many people were questioning why the death of Anna Nicole Smith qualified as a news story. What makes it so riveting (if not, in fact, actual news) are the facts that a.) but for the grace of God/genetics/upbringing/whatever, there go all of us, and we know and fear it, b.) an innocent babe now has the demise of her mother to steer much in her life, and most of all, c.) with her death, Ms. Smith's options just disappeared. No more new beginnings. No chance to redeem her own life through raising a little girl into a good, functional woman. She's done.

But we're not.

Life is a big fat mess. It always will be. If it were any other way, it would be a lot less fun. Can you imagine experiencing love in a sterile setting? No puddingy kisses from toddlers, no nursing of babies, no sobbing and rejoicing together over the new, hard, great stuff of preadolescence, no (ahem) sticky, sweaty, private scenes between lovers. The mess of life is part of what makes the experience lush. It helps us to be who we are. The highs, the lows, the static. It's the stuff of quiet grandeur. It's what makes revelling possible, desirable, worthwhile.

(And now, to analyze it to death. . .) The problem arises when we crave the high of the revelling but want to experience it without any of the negotiation, the trade-offs, the goo. We create trouble when we can't manage the messy parts but go on to make choices that allow us to justify turning our backs on the great stuff that lies in the midst of the mess.

Relationship difficulties of all stripes seem to be figuring heavily just now for many people in my generation. I think we're looking around, wondering if we're who we thought we'd be, who and where we wanted to be at this point in our personal time lines. Discovering that we're not, that our expectations (based largely on tabloid/marketing-driven false assumptions) have come no where near to being met, an alarming number of us choose discontent over grace.

This negativity becomes wearing. If the only time we avert our gaze from our own navels is to make negative comments on the people, systems, material around us, we and the folks we are in relationship with would be better off were we to stick with our navels. Thankfully, those are not our only options. How about focusing on the good?

Of course you have plenty to be annoyed about, no argument there. Don't we all? But how about just noticing the positive? While conscientiously letting your spouse off the hook for the way he or she hangs the toilet paper roll, you know, just to spite you, set your standard a little higher. Put some things in the plus column. Like what a great mom she is, pushing herself even when she's so tired her eyes hurt. Like the fact that he filled your car with gas last night so you wouldn't have to do it in the rush to your early morning appointment. Like the fact that she always leaves a mocha protein drink in the fridge for you to take with you when you're out the door at 4:30 am. Like the way he snuggles your babies, tenderly, even when they're just resting up between puking sessions.

And how about the kids? My focus is usually on whether or not we have clean faces, hands, combed hair, clean clothes, good behavior. I too rarely catch mine being good. I do not often enough tell them how much I love them just for being who they are (another point from yesterday's sermon), even if they haven't done everything perfectly. When I do this consistently, they glow. They respond to me more quickly, no matter what I'm asking of them. They fight less between themselves. They are more able to be in our relationship because they are valued and they know it in their bones.

I'd like to urge you (and then I'd like you in turn to urge those around you) to find the really great stuff in the midst of the craziness. Of course this doesn't mean that you should give up your attempts to reduce the chaos, be it physical or relational, wherever you encounter it. We don't benefit from wallowing in muck of any kind--that becomes a soul-sucking situation of it's own. What it does mean is that while still struggling to maintain order and organization, you might have to recognize that you only get so much real control; that whatever happens on this planet, chaos of some sort will persist. But it cannot, without our permission, obscure the loveliness that occurs right in front of us, beginning at about fifteen degrees in either direction from our navels.

So Happy Valentine's day. Go get dirty--really, really dirty--and then tell everyone how happy it's made you to be able to revel in the moments you have with them. Write it on a Post-it, rent a plane to pull a banner, whatever. Just say it; don't assume they know.

Yeah, you can take a shower after--remember to wash behind your ears. I hear that's where the pudding hides.

Hugs and kisses.

6 comments:

Amy @ the foil hat said...

Oh Carrie, I love this post. I'm so happy you're getting some sleep and that you had such a wonderful Sunday.Thank you.

Whitney said...

Carrie,
You're posts always make me put my stuggles into perspective and help me to focus on the little things that are truly a blessing. I have 5 kiddoes too and I know how exhausting it can be to care for them. I can't even compare my situation to yours in the least. BUT...You always help me to be thankful in the midst of this craziness. I love your posts. Thanks for being so candid.
Blessings,
Whitney

sleepy jeanne said...

That was lovely...thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Carrie,

I loved your post. Thanks for the reminder of letting our loved ones know *just* how much they are loved.
I always enjoy reading your blog.

ChristyB in AL

TheTutor said...

Carrie-

Wow! Thank you so much for this post! It brought me to a point of such reflection and encouragement and chastisement and relief... thank you. You have a gift. Thank you for sharing it.
Blessings,
me

Under the Sky said...

I agree with the Tutor. You really do have a gift in your words. May God bless you with His grace over an over.

Warmly,
Kate