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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Trapped

Flies.

Disgusting, disease-carrying creatures that always show up uninvited and are the last to leave.

Today as I lay on our porch sofa, two buzzed around aimlessly, just daring me to swat them. One looked harmless enough, but his sidekick must have been checking out picnics all day. He was the size of a mutated raisin and almost as bloated. I armed myself and waited to make my move.

Normally, I don't get all bent out of shape over a fly or two, but it so happens that last summer I played host to a couple of indoor fly conventions which enabled my son and me to bond over a swat-fest. We traced the source to an outdoor garbage can, but have had to be careful ever since. So when these guys started strutting their stuff, I was in no mood to be merciful.

Turns out they were their own undoing. Both trapped themselves between a screen and a window pane, then frantically flapped their wings till they were all fluttered out.

I find myself in this kind of predicament at times. I feel cornered between the proverbial rock and hard place, and scramble around trying to get out. Like these lowly insects, I can't even envision a solution to my problem. Instead I hurry and scurry, going through meaningless motions, oblivious to the fact that freedom is as available as asking God to open a window. He may or may not release me from my circumstances, but He surely provides avenues and byways that escape my attention.

"Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know." Jeremiah 33:3

For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: Rot, Dead Flies, and Other Unspeakable Things

"Pretty Much My Grandma," AKA, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Anita Rae Gross Etskovitz Miller almost didn't get born.

Seventy-three years ago, her mother, Ruth Gross, faced a decision of momentous proportions. At age 31 or thereabouts (she was a Russian immigrant to the United States, and birth certificates at that time were not part of the status quo in her country of origin), she had already given birth to four children. The oldest was 13, the youngest, almost nine. She and her husband worked hard to support their brood in their adopted country. They hosted relatives for weeks at a time, helping to pay for little things like the birth of a niece, and setting up family members in business so they, too, could grab hold of a corner of the American Dream. To top things off, Mrs. Gross suffered from severe asthma, and feared her unborn baby might "catch it."

A fifth child was unthinkable, and yet she was expecting.

In desperation, she sought out Dr. Teitelbaum, her trusted physician, and asked him for an abortion. The good doctor promised Anita's mother that her little one would not be asthmatic, and urged her to reconsider aborting. He and his childless wife offered to adopt the infant if Ruth felt she couldn't raise another child.
Anita's life was spared, and she grew up to become a gifted social worker who helped scores of families navigate the difficulties of dialysis (a medical intervention that could have saved the life of her father, had he lived in a different era; instead, he was taken by renal failure when Anita was 12); a master potter who commands hundreds of dollars for customized bowls and crockery, yet, with child-like earnestness, asks questions like, "It looks like corn, doesn't it?" when seeking an opinion on her artwork (Anita on her drawing ability: "I can make the clay work better than I can make a brush work. I could probably throw 50 pots if I had to, but that's easier than drawing one ear of corn!"); a gourmet cook whose table regularly hosts satiated family and friends; a seamstress whose skills range from repairing zippers to mending cane chairs; a homemaker who "wallpapered [her] house with tears" after being left alone to raise three pre-teens; and a steadfast friend to my family when she joined our neighborhood four months after my mom died and became, in the words of my young son, "pretty much my grandma."

She earned this title by doing things like cradling and reassuring my boy till her lap fell asleep when he cried for his granddad, who was the only grandparent he had left and had just been admitted to the hospital; sitting in a camp chair for two hours on a freezing night to watch my son play football; and refusing to paint over the doorjamb where she has faithfully tracked my kids' growth since the day she moved in.

What if Ruth's doctor had said yes?

"Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you...'" (Jeremiah 1:4-5)

"For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works... My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they were all written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them." (Psalm 139:13-16)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hair

Hair.

Mine is wiry, yet unruly. Does what it wants when it wants. Sometimes cooperates perfectly, but more often than not, takes on a life of its own. Its most recent trick is losing most of the natural wave that used to please me, giving way to plain, uninteresting locks that just kind of sit there.

Now that I've reached the mature age of 48, this erstwhile friend has developed a nasty habit of turning gray. I do what I can, visiting the hairdresser frequently and insisting she disguise it with whatever shade she thinks is closest to my own. But she and I - and probably the rest of the world - all know it's a facade.

Between touch ups, I pull out my own weaponry. And I do mean pull out. My arsenal consists of a mirror, good lighting, and a couple of nimble fingers. I call it "the pluck method" and it works pretty well, except that as soon as I resect one of the little buggers, two or three others take up the slack. No kidding - I could literally stand there for an hour just combing through, uncovering new hiders.

The saddest part is, I can only see the front.

I find a lot of parallels between my hair and sin problems. That may sound like a bigger stretch than Kate Gosselin's prenatal belly, but stay with me. Paul bemoaned his on-again, off-again submission to God's will in Romans 7: "For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice." (v. 19). He couldn't master obedience (oops, I guess that's an oxymoron) any more than I can overcome bad hair days. Jesus blasted the Pharisees for concealing their unrighteous hearts with righteous-looking actions (Matthew 23:23-28). He came right out and called them hypocrites because they wanted to look the part, rather than live it. Their piety appeared real, but was just as superficial as the blonde highlights I reapply every six weeks.

The thing that makes it all OK, though, is that, while I may be fruitlessly yanking out grays, my Savior has successfully unearthed and weeded out the cause of all my troubles. He did so by taking my place on two sticks of wood on a dark day 2,000 years ago. No more must I go through endless, repetitive motions to achieve something that's unachievable. He got to the root of the problem and rooted it out, then proceeded to root me in Himself so I could grow strong and tall when bathed in almighty Son-light (Colossians 2:7) and drenched with Living Water (John 4).

What a gardener.

Monday, June 20, 2011

God, Lamont and Alex

It's been well over a month, closer to two, since I've blogged. For one thing, my weekend job (assisting a disabled woman with her activities of daily living) started up again, after a six-week hiatus while she was in the hospital. I used that time to jump start my blog (thanks, Lisa, for giving me the nudge), and quickly got off track once the pace picked up again. Shortly after I got back into the routine, both cars in our family started to die (one broke down on the Blue Route with my teenaged son at the wheel; thank heavens there was no accident, just bye bye Toyota after all the oil leaked out). Thus began my period of salvaging, title transferring, and trading, which resulted in a sleek new Mazda 5 taking up residence in my driveway!

I'm extremely thankful for this blessing, as I now have several things that are definitely non-essentials but make the driving experience ever so much more enjoyable (i.e., air conditioning and AM radio, both of which were on strike in my '99 Ford Taurus), not to mention one or two minor add-ons, like working retractable seat belts and brakes that don't scream when you tap them.

And yet, I notice with chagrin, it took less than a week for me to start finding fault with my new toy. The cloth seats are a light sand color which readily attracts dirt. The horn is high pitched, much too feminine for my new "baby," whom I affectionately named Alex, since he's gray and manly, like the Jeopardy host. Today - horrors! - Alex got his first little boo boo, as I accidentally tapped my door on our fence when pulling into the driveway. And driving, which I've never been overly fond of, and at times actually resented for its demands on my concentration and alertness, has reverted to being a chore, now that the initial excitement has subsided.

In short, the honeymoon is over.

I'm learning from this - I should say re-learning because my head knew it already, but I guess I needed to prove it to myself - that no thing will ever make me happy for very long. Life always casts a shadow on itself, really; it's never perfect, although occasionally it feels that way when my house is tidied up just the way I like it and my kids are behaving in a way that pleases me and I have a new car in the driveway.
Therefore, I'm choosing to focus on the incredible way God provided this vehicle, not because it would thrill me forever, but because I expect it to transport my family and me safely and comfortably, and be a means for giving back to God's work. I anticipate using Alex for ministry opportunities which will have far longer effects than the temporary exhilaration of a new trinket.

Before closing, I wanted to put in a plug in for my dealer. After an unpleasant experience with the first one Ivisited (being basically thrown out when I challenged them on what seemed like a bait and switch deal), it was a delightful experience to work with Pacifico Mazda. They were extremely courteous, generous in their assessment of my ailing Ford, and met the price I had in mind. And, in typical God fashion, He brought me to their doorstep when I was literally on the brink of another (I was actually plugging the address of a different dealer into the GPS when Pacifico's salesman returned my call). The Lord arranged for all these pieces to come together when I felt a real urgency to move forward after weeks of planning and researching. The kicker: the gentleman - and I do mean gentle man, Lamont Dean - who assisted me with the sale had a set of praying hands on his desk with Bible verses tucked between the fingers. He called on Jesus to bless us as we drove away from the lot.

In the words of a missionary I once met, God is never late but rarely early. I would add that He is always right on time.

"Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that." I Thess. 6:6-8