Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Beauty and the Beast

The last time we went grocery shopping, just for fun we bought a bag of fortune cookies. Today my son's fortune was this:

"Accept something that you cannot change, and you will feel better."

I realize this is nothing new; I know my way around the Serenity Prayer. However I also dare not skate too close to the thin ice of "positive thinking" type philosophies which do not support the real weight of life's predicaments. But this little scrap of paper, for today, was in a nutshell what I had just yesterday concluded about winter.

When I was six years old my family took a vacation to California. This was back in the late 1960's and I'm sure things are much different now, but back then, it was to my heart and soul a paradise. There were orange groves, mountains with streams, dirt roads, fig trees, old barns, and sun. Also my dearly loved cousins were there. It was two weeks of bliss. After that I always wanted to live there.

The older I got the more I wondered why in the world anyone would ever live here, in the suburbs of Chicago. It is horrible in the winter, the l-o-n-g winter. I hate the cold--it is painful. When I was a teen, my Dad told me that if I really wanted to get out of here I'd better do it while I was young. That was the plan. In the back of my mind was always the dream of moving to California.

Well, Dad was right. I didn't go right away and I'm still here, forty years later. And all of those years I've been hating winter, grumbling and complaining about how many months we have bad weather, and being in a bad mood for all of them. I know we could have moved, still could, theoretically. But first of all, we had kids. And Ron got a good job. It's pretty hard to walk away from a good job when you have kids to think about. Then you get rooted. And now we're pretty much stuck.

The boys and I were looking at the Ten Commandments yesterday in our Story Bible. Included is, "Thou shalt not covet..." I explained that coveting is wanting what other people have and not being content with what you have. Just think of it. That is so important that God made it one of the Ten Commandments. Then John wanted to know what "being content" means. I said,"it means being happy." It is interesting that "contentment" is kind of the opposite of "contention."

There really are some things to like about winter, not the same things for everyone. My husband enjoys ice fishing. I enjoy baking, and making soup. Winter is a good time to get projects done, like sewing blankies or quilt-ishes. It is also the perfect time to buckle down with school. (It's not like there's tons of fun we're missing out on.) Despite my bad attitude, I did tune in to the winter olympics and found them spectacular. There is football, which I like. And our neighbors flooded their back yard, so just last night I had the thrilling experience of watching my seven-year old learn to ice skate! (They have it all lit up--it's really pretty.)

He was even playing hockey. This is quite exciting to me because one of my greatest dreams--like California--is being able to ice skate. Ice skating looks to me like a combination of dancing and flying--two of the most lovely and joyful things on earth. But I guess with ice skating too, if you're gonna learn how, you'd better do it while you're young. Alas I never had the chance, but I am so happy that my little guys will.

While I was visiting my oldest son in Colorado, we went to a college hockey game just for something to do. When the players first came out on the ice, and there were all these colored flags, and they were just soaring around so was so beautiful to me that I cried. (I know, I don't get out enough.) But sometimes I actually like being able to cry like that, because I am not desensitized to the wonder of it all.

Yesterday I realized that I may never go to California. There may be long, cold winters in store for me the rest of my days. But maybe I can be happy anyway. Maybe I don't have to hate it so much, or even at all. Maybe I can look forward to cooking and studying and hobbies and snuggling up under the blankies with my family. Seeing them enjoy the cold outdoors, even though it might seem crazy to me, is something I can be content with. Or even happy.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


This morning our Pastor's sermon was on how deep and wide is the Love of Christ.

The last couple of days I have been watching some of the Winter Olympics. This is very unlikely, as I never watch the Olympics or any other sports, aside from the occasional football game or figure skater. What makes it even possible that this has occurred is that we recently finally bought a 32" flatscreen HDTV. It is in our living room. Normally we do not have a television in our living room. However, the flatscreen is actually pretty small and unobtrusive. Also, this way I can do my workout dvds on the hardwood floor, and possibly utilize some of the Spanish and/or nature shows for homeschooling. But my point is, that we got this TV about a week ago, just in time for the Olympics; and since it's still kind of a novelty I have moseyed over to check out the action.

The first thing I noticed was how beautiful the setting is. Much as I hate winter, the sparkling wonder of snow-covered mountains and trees, the blinding white quiet expanse is really breathtaking. There, in the middle of what seems to be uninhabitable cold weather majesty, are people--participating in outdoor winter games. I was reminded once again of how ignorant I am of what's going on outside my own little world. I would have easily blown off even glancing at or hearing anything about the Olympics. I just wouldn't care about such things...but for the timely arrival of the HDTV.

What struck me then possibly even more than the scenery were the athletes themselves. Their spandex-like suits reveal the most toned, trained, muscular, strong, perfect bodies I have ever seen. I mean, these bodies are not just sculpted to look good. They are controlled athletic machines, formed to a purpose. It was so uplifting to watch the ski jumpers soaring through the air in perfect form. The whole thing brought back childhood dreams of flying.

Then came the speed skating. Wow, does that look dangerous, and strenuous. I was getting exhausted just watching these guys. But it didn't end--they just kept going, around and around at top physical pressure the whole way. I was truly amazed at what I saw, that anyone could have such control, such skill, such endurance to perform in a way that seemed superhuman to me. Then came the ski racing--fantastic! And appearing even more difficult than the speed skating.

I thought to myself, "All these people, training so hard for this, devoting so much time and energy and focus...and I didn't even know it was happening. I had no idea people did such wonderful things." It is kind of like when you read something that is so well-written, so insightful, so intelligent...or when you see some unbelievable artwork, like what goes around on the internet of insanely complex sidewalk chalk drawings, or when you hear a piece of music that grabs your soul and wrings it out. I was touched deeply.

But I was also troubled. I felt, I feel kind of like a loser. Because I have never applied myself to anything in remotely one tiny percentage of the way that these people have. I mean, look what people, human beings like me, can achieve! What have I ever achieved? I get excited about doing a few sit-ups & push ups. I feel proud if I do a little aerobics. Or finish some small project. I mean, that's not's just that when you're young and you have your whole life ahead of you you think that someday you will have climbed some kind of mountain...but now I look back and there has been so much time wasted. I have spent my days ignoring the Olympics and hiding from any possibilities by just being busy with stupid things, or undisciplined, or lazy.

I find it heartening that it was at this exact moment, on this day, that I arrived at a point in a study I am doing where I was directed to begin reading John Piper's "A Hunger for God," particularly the introduction. The book is about fasting. The introduction is about many things, but one idea which struck me was the thought of disciplining myself through the spiritual exercise and physical work of fasting. Listen to the Apostle Paul:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.--I Cor. 9:24-27

I feel like God is telling me something. That it is time for me to persevere.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


I need to write, but I don't feel like writing. The expression, "arrrghhhh" sums up how I feel. Frustrated is another word for it, I guess.

My kids are sick. There is something really horrible about your kids being sick. It is comprised of many things. There is vulnerability, of course. Your heart is in limbo, as it is very difficult to see your little ones suffering and to be unable to stop it. There is the irritability from sequential sleepless nights-- or interrupted sleep--that formidable form of torture. Also, cooped-up-ness, the pent-up energy of two vigorous (yes, even while ailing) little boys who desperately need to run around outside but can't, which translates into general agitation and crankiness all around.

Then there is the guilt. That oppressive darkness hovering over my brain whispering to me all through the day and night that if I had fed them more nutritiously, exercised them more properly, utilized more stringent hygienics, cleaned the house better...whatever, that this wouldn't be happening, again. It's all my fault, naturally.

Then I get mad which definitely doesn't help the guilt, especially if I lose my temper, which I usually do if the situation goes on for too many days in a row. This time we're going on week three, and I already lost my temper several days ago. I have since repented, crumpled into defeat, and received so many hearty coughs directly into my face that I have now actually contracted the disease myself.

The problem is I get mad at God. I can't understand why He lets this happen. Which of course puts me into good company, quite frankly, the company of many who have a whole lot more legitimate sufferings to be fretting about. Which leads me to the real crux. I can't handle anything well. The kids' being sick just brings this out. I'm spoiled.

I don't know how to deal with adversity. I have not tested any possible depth of character, discovered any road to fortitude through travails. I have in fact avoided travails, trials, and tribulations with the skill of a fool. My point is further illustrated in this Bible passage:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. -James 1:2-4

And not only James, but Paul:

we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.-Romans 5:3-4

And Peter:

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. -I Peter 4:1-2

I have been feeling that these continual recurring sicknesses have been possibly an attack of the enemy. A battering attack which we seem unable to meet with any effective resistance. I am now beginning to see that perhaps in this situation the reason for my frustration is that I am not seeing things rightly. I am not viewing the opportunities afforded me here--the training exercise.