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Monday, August 22, 2011

Babies, Big and Small

Yesterday I got to cuddle a brand new baby. As I nuzzled his downy hair and silken cheek, I found myself reminiscing back to the days when my own children were infants. I pondered all the stages they've passed through while growing up. The tantrum stage, when just to take them anywhere was a Herculean feat calling for bravery, consistency, and a whip and chair whenever possible. The "why" stage, where everything is questioned, and the word "no" merely a synonym for "Let's have a two hour debate." That delightful hand-holding stage in which the parent is not only not an embarrassment (something I would've taken more joy in, had I known how quickly it would pass), but whose status ranks somewhere between George Washington and Superman. I thought of how many different people my children have been over the years, and how glad I am to have gotten to know them throughout all their changes.

Today I attended the re-commitment ceremony of my sister and her husband after 23 years of marriage. As they gazed into each other's eyes and promised to remain true to one another "again, and always," I rejoiced at the faith and stamina which have sustained them through plenty of trials, as well as much happiness. I looked at the faces of their three children, and thought what a blessing it was that they could be standing alongside two parents who have chosen to stay the course despite the unpredictable waves that accompany family life in a sin-stained world. I thought what a miracle it is that in this era of easy and commonplace divorce, these two imperfect, yet devoted, individuals have completed nearly a quarter of a century as husband and wife.

My mind wandered back to the new little guy whose feathery skin I caressed just yesterday. I smiled, thinking of the pride these new parents will take in meeting their child's newborn needs, providing just the right amount of stimulation, making sure wipes aren't too cold for a sensitive bottom, tucking his floppy head into a fluffy car seat cushion to prevent sudden movement. Then I pictured him as a wing-spreading preschooler and later, an acne-ridden teenager, who will need just as much support in a different way from parents who may feel over-burdened with life's demands. I know how challenging it is to give time and energy to my older children, who look so much less needy than they did as helpless infants. I intoned a prayer that his parents will make it through all the debris that life will throw at them, and that as he passes through each phase of existence, two sets of hands will be there to guide his steps and set him upright when he inevitably falls down. I prayed for the same staying power that has gifted Jo and Scott's children with a core unit they can always draw on to be available for this new little person.

I pray God's blessing on all our babies, big and small.

"Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it." Psalm 127:1

For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: Seasons

Friday, August 19, 2011

Rot, Dead Flies, and Other Unspeakable Things

This was written last December. I'm resurrecting it now, as I'm having some of the same emotions now that summer vacation is nearing its end. In a few weeks I'll be trading in my shorts for "business casual" and getting up at 5:30 again to go to work. I'm sure most of my readers will have no sympathy if I bemoan the return to work-a-day life, and really I'm not looking for any. What I am trying to do is psych myself up for another school year, and get back in the groove. I guess a little down time is useful for anyone, but I don't want to ever go on vacation from the Lord. He's just too important.

I knew I had hit bottom, as it were, over Christmas vacation, when I took sponge in hand and began cleaning out the refrigerator. This after sleeping late, breakfasting on a sumptuous meal prepared by my 18-year-old son, lunching at Dunkin’ Donuts, and rounding things out with a two-hour nap. I decided if I was to have even a shred of self-respect left at the end of my winter break, I must at least do a few household chores.

So, armed with basin, sponge and paper towels, I commenced scrubbing. And I do mean scrubbing. You need to know that this box hadn’t been thoroughly cleaned since … well, since the last time I did it. My initial plan was simply to tackle the remains of a gargantuan spill that had occurred around Thanksgiving (I had wiped up the worst of the mess when it happened, intending to give it more thorough attention when time allowed; funny thing is, time never did allow). In order to visualize the scene, you have to realize that my refrigerator door swings open 90 degrees and butts up against a wooden table ledge on which my computer keyboard rests. It’s complicated. Just take my word that it’s more trouble than it’s worth to manipulate the setup to open the door to its fullest extent, which would allow the removal of both veggie drawers. In this context, I pulled out one drawer completely, and the other to the fullest extent possible.
I realized quickly that the radius of my arm was inversely proportional to the amount of crud it had to reach. This led to a series of very creative positions in which I attempted to circumvent the part of the drawer that was stuck in position. Needless to say, the work was acrobatic and the end result, far less than perfect.

Clearly I had attempted this Herculean feat at least once since purchasing the appliance six years ago; that much was obvious from the remnants of baking soda accompanying the spill under the veggie drawers. (It hadn’t done the job, incidentally; the powder had morphed into mutant, snow-like clumps whose deodorizing properties had long since lost their battle against tuna, onion and ethnic holiday foods). In addition, I was dealing with some sort of sticky goo that had attached itself like fleas to a Saint Bernard. This job would require far longer than the ten minutes I had figured on.

The thing that annoyed me most was the way the task grew as I went along. Forty-five grueling minutes later, I was still scouring, hosing down, and complaining. The reason for the endlessness? Unforeseen complications. Everywhere I looked were disgusting memories of foods gone by. In this corner crumbs from our Christmas pie; in that cranny drops of dried milk stuck fast like chewing gum on a cold sidewalk. I even happened upon (those with weak stomachs, beware) a dead fly left over from our infestation last summer. The poor thing must have sought refuge from the swatter, only to meet a frigid end in our Arctic icebox. As a postscript, I must add that while fixing a snack later, I noted with chagrin that I had completely overlooked the cheese drawer! What this means is that more scrubbing awaits me even though I imagined my work was done.

Does any of this sound familiar? I would wager the vast majority of my readers have never found a fly belly up in their refrigerators. However, as Christians we must all be acquainted with the experience of frustrated cleansing efforts. How often have our attempts to beautify the externals been thwarted by the underlying problem of sin? We all try to look our best and talk a good Christian game, but doesn’t sin crop up anyway? Like the arcade game at the beach, when we take out one pop-up character with our mallet, two or three more show up immediately to take its place. This phenomenon is explained by Romans 7, in which Paul laments his inability to conquer sin in his life:

"I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin." (Romans 7:14-25)

Furthermore, no matter how “clean” we make ourselves, we can’t escape the fact that we are tainted by sin. Our cleansing efforts will always be insufficient to conquer the overall contamination that is our sin (Isaiah 64:6). The sin nature exists and has –no, had – a death grip on us until Christ applied His heavenly disinfectant once and for all (Romans 7:25).

One final note. I chose to throw out several items whose expiration dates had passed. This was hard for me, coming as I do from a frugal, Depression-era family which emphasized saving, storing and reusing. And truthfully, the foods still looked and smelled fine. Still, being a veteran of food poisoning, I trekked over to the trash can and wished them bon voyage. In like manner, we simply must realize that sin, no matter how appealing it may appear, can and will poison our walk with Christ until we ask Him to excise it.

For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: Trapped

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Keeping My Side of the Street Clean Part 2

Today I have great reason to rejoice. I had a major falling out with a dear friend and confidante this past weekend. There were tears and harsh words aplenty, and I truly feared our relationship might never recover.
It's a terrifying feeling to see a structure which has been years in the making topple and almost fall to the ground, threatening to crash into a million pieces. Despite my efforts (inadequate at best and destructive at worst), rescue seemed hopeless. I had forced a confrontation at an inopportune time, and proceeded to shred that which was already in tatters. I despaired of being able to resurrect that which had, in less than 24 hours, gone from bad to worse to all-out code red.

Surely only a divine hand could prevent irretrievable disaster.

When all seemed lost, Providence pierced both our hearts, replacing the arrows of wounded pride and misunderstanding with Spirit-crafted sutures of compassion and forgiveness.

There's nothing for me to do but fall at His feet and marvel. The same mercy that promised Paradise 2,000 years ago to a criminal hanging on a cross beside Divinity stands ready to intervene daily in the mixed up world of a 21st century sinner named Thea.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound...

For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: Keeping My Side of the Street Clean

Morsels for Meditation...: Keeping My Side of the Street Clean Part 3

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Someday My Prince Will Come ... and He Just May Be a Princess

Don't panic. I'm not about to rescind my pro-family, one-man one-woman marriage views in one keystroke. But now that I have your attention...

I heard the other day the statement that women are often waiting for Prince Charming, the White Knight, the Knight in Shining Armor - whatever you want to call it - to rescue and/or take care of them. The speaker made the point that this is an unrealistic and unattainable goal. As she spoke, I realized I used to hold the belief that once I was married, all my needs, both material and emotional (not necessarily in that order) would be met forevermore. I can remember praying that God would protect my husband so he could continue to protect me.    

As with any idol, once this one was yanked away from me (and after I finished  kicking and screaming), I found that God had every intention of meeting my needs in His own time and by His own means. In this case, the means was loving parents, siblings and friends ... and, after He had strengthened my shattered ego, myself.

Don't get me wrong. I don't consider myself a feminist as such. I taught my sons to hold doors open for women and carry packages for their mother. I think it makes sense for a body that's physiologically stronger, and often taller, to do the heavier lifting and reaching whenever possible. Likewise, I wouldn't expect a six-foot-four linebacker to crawl through an air vent to rescue a cat. I believe in following natural laws as God laid them out, and some things that are considered outdated in our post-modern society are, in my mind, just common sense.

But what I have learned, in all humility, is that the mind and resources God has gifted me with can make me a princess to be reckoned with.

Oh, and by the way, this princess (and for that matter, every prince) is beholden to a King!

"I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well." ~ Psalm 139:14

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Exceedingly Abundantly (Ephesians 3:20)

This will have to be a really quick post, but I just had to thank the Lord publicly for His amazing goodness to my family today. I accompanied my older son to his college admissions meeting this morning so he could sign up for fall classes. At the end of the registration process, we were told to go to the cashier's office, where we were given a bill to be paid within 48 hours. Our next stop was the financial aid office, to see how we could offset the damage. When all was said and done, we not only didn't owe anything, but have more than enough left over to buy books!

Never in my wildest dreams did I envision such mercy and grace.

Now if I can only remember this the next time something goes wrong.     

"When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other." Ecclesiastes 7:14