Thursday, October 29, 2009

Scanning the Past

I looked forward to spending time with my Mom, Aunt Judy, and cousin, Tommye Lou. Now that would have been fun in itself, but add old photographs and a bowl of my Mom’s chicken salad, and we were content to sit around the kitchen table all day.
I was surprised by the amount of pictures that Aunt Judy had. Most were neatly arranged in albums, but I had the most fun with photos in the large box. It was a treasure chest of memories. Photos of my great-grandparents lay quietly beside my own childhood snapshots. A picture of my grandparents and their young children on Christmas day was nestled between photos of their grandchildren on Santa’s lap.
We lingered over a picture of my grandmother when she was a teenager. She was wearing a swimsuit that would today be considered shorts and a tanktop, stockings rolled below her knees, shoes, and a strand of pearls. We also found photos of my Mom and aunts at a slumber party, and pictures of my cousins all sporting the same haircut, courtesy of the grandmother who once wore pearls to swim. And we laughed.
The majority of the photos involved a birthday cake, food, or an Easter Egg hunt. In most of those shots my daughter, Lauren, was standing right next to Maw Maw and staring at the cake. Few pictures were marked, which led to great discussion over the identity of the people. We didn’t even try to date each photo. Imagine our surprise when we found a picture of a dog. On the back, neatly labeled was: Skippy, three and one-half months, 1942. And we laughed.
Taking a break from our scan of the past, Aunt Judy told us of a children’s book that she recently saw. As she explained its contents, I immediately knew that it was “I Love You Forever,” one of my favorites. It’s a story of a mother’s unconditional love that survives the stages of a child’s life and the seasons of her own. I’ve read it many times to my own children and to my students. I found my copy and handed it to Tommye Lou to read. It seemed appropriate that we end our day of remembering the past with a reminder of love that endures from generation to generation. And we cried.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Got Homework?

Snakes? Not really.
Height? No problem.
Lions, and tigers, and bears? Good try.
No, I’m not afraid of any of those things, but that doesn’t mean that I am without fear. There’s nothing that causes my heart to skip a beat quite like a notification from Edline.
If you’re unfamiliar with Edline, it’s an online service used by schools that allow parents instant access to their child’s grades. Gone are the good old days when you received a report card every 9 weeks, and threatened the kids until you got the next one.
Not only are the grades always accessible, I get email notifications when a new grade is posted. And thanks to my husband’s technical savvy, my email goes straight to my phone. As soon as a new notification pops up, I cringe. I close my eyes so that I can concentrate as I contemplate my decision. Do I open it immediately? Do I wait until I’m already in a bad mood so Edline doesn’t ruin a good day? Do I wait until Victoria is home so that I can fire questions directly at her? What aggravates me more than anything else is finding a “0” for a homework grade. There are simply no excuses for that, and she offers none.
I mean, really, just do the assignment. I don’t demand perfection, just completion. Show me that you are trying to put into practice what the teacher has taught you. Just do the required assignments, please.
I don’t get nearly as upset over test grades. Not even when one of my children (not Victoria) brought home a Science test with an F, and a note from the teacher, “This was an open book test.” I signed the test and wrote back, “Which book did she have open? Surely not Science.”
I really should show more patience because sometimes I miss an assignment, too. I don’t always do what God tells me to do. Assignments could include encouraging a friend, making a hospital visit, picking up a new project, or dropping an old one. I’ve been known to procrastinate until it’s too late, or get stuck in the details, striving for perfection, only to abandon the whole thing.
Somehow I think that God just wants me to try. Even if I fail, I believe that He just wants me to make an effort. I don’t want any more assignments marked ‘incomplete.’
Showing up in Heaven without completing an earthly assignment is truly my greatest fear.
©2009 Ronny Michel - May be forwarded in its entirety, including the copyright line

Friday, October 16, 2009

God's Bottle

None of my children look like me. Not one in five. I know that I gave birth to them and can tell you, in great detail, about each of those experiences. Don’t worry, I won’t.
I can even tell you about each pregnancy and the fact that I’m still carrying around more than a little weight from those times. Some women might resent the fact that their bodies are not quite the same after childbearing. Don’t worry, I don’t.
My three oldest daughters accentuate the physical differences between us by dying their hair darker than the natural color. I forget how different we look until someone asks, “Where did they get their beautiful dark hair?”
Rarely at a loss for words, I answer, “From a bottle.” What I leave out is that my hair color also comes from a bottle. If I cannot look like I did in college, at least I can rely on chemistry to keep my hair the same color as it once was.
When Lauren darkened her hair last fall, I looked at her and thought, with that long, dark hair, I’d love to see her in a red formal. It wasn’t a prayer, or even a deep desire, just a thought that I soon dismissed. Ten months later, as I was sewing a long, red dress for her to wear at a banquet in Washington, D.C., I remembered that thought and thanked God for never forgetting it. He provides for my needs, hears my prayers, and sometimes even surprises me by fulfilling a wish.
Are all of my wishes fulfilled? No. I don’t have a room that can hold my extended family or a lazy river in the backyard. That’s okay. It’s just proof that some of my husband’s wishes are fulfilled.
Neither are all of my prayers answered the way that I want them to be. And that’s okay, too. I have chosen to trust that God know what’s best, and I rely on His comfort rather than question His decisions.
One Scripture that never fails to comfort me is Psalm 56:8, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” God never forgets my prayers, dreams, or even my tears. Somewhere in Heaven is a bottle that holds each one of them.
And that bottle’s much bigger than the one that holds my hair color.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mother's Guilt

Sometimes I feel like I have an extreme case of mother’s guilt. Regardless of the circumstances, or the children’s lack of responsibility, I lapse into an episode of thinking that somehow I am to blame. It recently dawned on me that Mary had the opportunity to suffer from the same condition.

The second chapter of Luke relates the story of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph going to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. After the celebration, Mary and Joseph headed home, probably accompanied by a large caravan. They thought that Jesus was with them, but in the evening, He could not be found among their relatives and friends. At that point they returned to Jerusalem, and three days later, they finally found Him in the temple. Jesus’ answer to their anxious questioning was simply, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

I thought about the times that I’ve forgotten my children. At least when I forgot Geoff at the library, and Elise at school, it didn’t take me a whole day to notice they were gone. Poor Mary! What must have gone through her mind as she searched for her child?

Can you imagine her panic? She lost God! What a dilemma! What was she going to tell everyone? “Yes, the Saviour was born, but I forgot Him in Jerusalem. Now no one knows where He is!”

Can you imagine Mary’s prayers? “Dear God, where’s Your Son? I lost Him!” Or, “Stay right where You are, we’re coming back to get You!”

Then, my thoughts turned toward my own relationship with Jesus. On more occasions that I care to recall, I have found myself in the midst of the noisy crowd, and suddenly realized that I didn’t see Jesus. And it’s usually because I left Him, because I moved on, joined with the crowd and walked away from where He was… where He is… promoting the Kingdom of God. To get back to Him, I need to withdraw from the crowd and return to where He is, doing the will of the Father.
But, unlike Mary, sometimes, many times, I go much longer than a day before I realize that I’ve walked away. I’m alone, despite being surrounded by the masses, and Jesus is still doing the work of the Father.

With all of my heart, I want to be where He is, do what He does, and never walk away from Him.

©2009 Ronny Michel - May be forwarded in its entirety, including the copyright line