Archive | July 2010

What we hope for our children

It dawned on me recently how often verdicts are passed on your kid. Not like in an official way, but casually. Like when I was in the doctor recently, and the friendly nurse said, “We don’t see you in here too often! That’s a good thing…Sam is pretty healthy!” She said it as a compliment, and I took it as one, and puffed up like someone had told me they liked what I’d done with the living room, or for the marinade on the chicken. I remember thinking scornfully and a little pitifully about those other moms, the ones with the kids who are always sick. Poo. Even before the kid is the size of a walnut, we breathe a breath of relief when the heartbeat is good, and then when the organs are developing nicely, and when it looks like he’s coming on time, etc. etc. And of course now I love hearing the doctor tell me his lungs are clear, and his teeth are coming in nicely, and he’s staying perfectly on his growth curve. Secretly in my heart of hearts, if I fantasize about the doctors and nurses discussing us, they nod their heads, and their eyes sparkle, and they smile a little. What a perfectly developing little kid. She’s doing something right.
So later that week, (as I was blow-drying my hair, of course) it hit me. My thinking is way screwed up. And not just because it’s incredibly immature and superficial. You see, if I follow my logic out, the error becomes more obvious. What would a “successful” Sam look like, in the way I’m programmed to think? People would stop me, you know, in grocery stores, and tell me they can’t believe he knows what bananas are already. They’d compliment me on his motor skills, and he would always pass his hearing tests, and never get the diseases they warn you about, and always weigh the right amount, and eat five servings of vegetables (with a normal amount of distaste but then obedience). Later, his handwriting would be above average, and teachers would discipline him occasionally, but always smiling. He’d be good at sports, maybe break a bone or two while climbing a tree (like a finger, that would heal easily). Later he’d be the above average group in school. Probably a boy scout. He’d go to Chapel Hill, and enjoy it, but not too much. And then make something nice of himself, coming home frequently to see his wonderful mom.
That’s it. What I’m hoping for all these doctor visits, and everytime he falls down, and when we read alphabet books together. It’s not only ridiculously impossible, it’s deceptive. Would I really feel happy with that life? Is that my highest hope for Sam? I tremble a bit as I realize, no.
And a verse comes to mind. It’s not really a favorite, in the sense that I’d write it on an index card to pull out for comfort. But it’s good.
“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
So there it is. Those nurses will tempt you, but health and beauty and brains and safety home from every soccer game…well, I guess that’s not my highest ambition, really. I trust my little boy to his real Father, and hope that above all else, come what may, he will love Him. I hope he does.
But also, I REALLY hope he still wants to visit good old mom when he’s bigger. Is that too much to ask? 🙂

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more on death.

I’m not a freak, I promise. I can’t help it that I’ve been gifted.
It’s kind of like my sister. She has a gift. Tell her that you just found out you’re pregnant, and she can tell you within thirty seconds your due date. My gift is kind of like that, only not at all. You see, if you give ME fifteen minutes, I’ll tell you everything and anything that could possibly go wrong in your little old life. Beautiful, isn’t it?
So here we are, with another death post. But it gets better, trust me.
You see, it dawned on me the other day. I’m going to die. Why do I fight it? So I immediately did what I always do when I am determined to conquer something by ration, reason, or force. I research, and I organize. I wish it were sexier, that I were one of those people who conquer their devils by running fifteen miles, or hiking a mountain, or even concocting something new in the kitchen. No, for me it’s always been: read everything you can on a subject, and then make color-coded index cards and a spreadsheet to give some poor soul a presentation on something they never wanted to know.
And thus it was with death. And where, persay, do I go if I want to learn about death, and slay the dragons of fear thereof? The Bible, of course – that’s where I went. The whole thing, actually. Well, okay, I skipped the Old Testament for purposes of time. But I started with Matthew determined to write down every single reference to eternity, dying, or heaven. Cure it with research, right? (I do realize that this whole post is casting a rather unflattering self-image, but in my determination to be honest, and – more importantly, helpful – on I go. 🙂
Well I have to be honest, the first couple books were a little more bleak than I had hoped. I felt like from an initial skimming that I had been called “a brood of vipers” one too many times. I wasn’t quite feeling the hope. Until John.
The Gospel of John is my new. favorite. book. Did you know there are over 31 references to eternal life, just in the FIRST HALF of the book? It’s always Jesus talking, and according to John he mentions the word “LIFE” about every time he ends a miracle, or story, or lesson. It’s incredible, if you’re looking. Man, I felt better reading those. And incredibly, not so much with “eyes on heaven” that I wasn’t any earthly good. On the contrary, I can tell you that I sliced the dinner sweet potatoes with a new enjoyment, attention, and joy. It’s odd, but true.
The big question, though, is, does my new knowledge cure me from those awful death fears? Well…those who saw me dash all of the sofa cushions in the pantry to escape the impending “tornado” that occurred, or was predicted to occur, three hours later, might probably assume no. But it’s a start. I thought I might share a little of my hope, but you should really go read the whole book. This is just one verse, the first that really hit me. It’s familiar, but I can tell you it had new meaning for this little researcher, scared to death of death.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16.
🙂

Finally, I watched it

Confession. I have not actually read any of The Lord of the Rings. Additionally, until recently, whenever I watched any of the movies, I fell asleep. People are horrifed at this, me being a literature teacher and all. And I’m not proud of it. I just can’t help it. As soon as I read the words “troll” or “goblin,” or “middle earth,” something happens inside of me and I check out. I am well aware that this tendency exempts me from a large amount of the world’s beautiful literature, but I can’t help it.

Usually my husband shares this predisposition against fantasy-land, but he has been nagging me for years to watch The Lord of the Rings. Which I didn’t understand, until now.

There are bookstores written about these stories, and I’m not going to attempt to add to the discussion after one skeptical viewing of the movies. But I do get it now…and one thing in particular stood out to me.

They are not scared to die. Not at all. They’re not even scared of pain. In fact, they run to it. You watch it and just baffle. At least I do. I’m trying my darndest to prevent, avoid, predict, and flee every hardship my mind conceives. But to these characters, struggles, death, and pain are – not merely accepted – but chased after.

There’s one scene where Gandoff is encouraging a little dwarf, Pippin, before the big battle. The dwarf is more like me, gulping at the battle, grimacing at death. He says, “I didn’t think it would end this way.” Gandoff responds: “End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey-rain curtain of this world rolls past, and then we’ll see it.” Pippin: “What? See what?” Gandoff: “White shores, and beyond. A far green country with a swift sunrise.” Pippin: “Well that isn’t quite so bad.” Gandoff: “No, it isn’t.”

There’s one verse I’ve been thinking a lot about. I like to think Tolkien thought about it too:

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Heb. 2:14-15)

On Discipline

Formerly in my mind, there were two types of moms. Good moms, and moms who let their kids chew on the car keys in the grocery store line. If you have ever been one of the latter, I apologize for judging you. Oh, how I judged you.

It was so simple then. Dude. Get the keys out of that kid’s mouth. Who cares if he freaks out. HeLLLLOOOO, GERMS!!!!

I have since learned – or rather, felt – the pitiful, carnal, desperate fear of being “the mom with the screaming kid.” NO ONE wants to be that mom, whether they are merely petty and immature, weak and submissive, or prideful and haughty (like me). We all have our reasons. Simply put, I am trying to be consistent. If eating car keys is yucky in the living room at home, well darn it, it’s yucky during the prayer at church or, yes, while there are three people standing behind me in line and one impatient cashier watching me search for the missing coupon for the waffles. Come what may, I am trying to be consistent.

And I’ll need it. I’ve heard that Dr. James Dobson states in the book The Strong Willed Child that 75% of kids are “strong-willed children.” This is a fancy way of saying if you take the car keys out of these kids’ mouths, it doesn’t matter if they were getting bored anyway, or how decisively you say “no,” or how quickly you can insert a stuffed giraffe in their place – they will scream BLOODY MURDER, simply because their will has been foiled. He doesn’t address the scenario of a strong-willed mom having a strong-willed child, but that makes things doubly interesting. It’s oh-so-tempting to want to “win” the battle of the pureed sweet potatoes, but sometimes, I am learning, winning is losing. This is what my mom is teaching me. If it’s not important, don’t make it important. Some kids love hearing “no.” So even though saying it comes as natural to me as breathing, eating french fries, and straightening pictures that are crooked on the wall, I try to resist. We are early in this game, but I have had a few victories. I’m thinking I probably better get my hands on that book sometime soon, though. 🙂

A Shout-Out

It’s gotten to the point where I think my husband groans when he hears me say, “Dr. Gordon says….” I think he is intimidated by the man, which is ironic since Todd is literally two feet taller than Dr. Gordon. His official name is T. David Gordon and he was, hands-down, my favorite professor at Grove City College. He wore suspenders and smiled all the time and fought cancer the last semester I had him. I’m pretty sure he didn’t miss more than a month, and when he returned he dragged his chemo behind him on tubes and wheels. He was my favorite because he was the wittiest person I’ve ever met, spiced everything with humor, used unconventional language (cough cough) to make a point, and above all, he was kind. I recently saw that he has had two books (at least?) released since he taught us Greek five years ago. The one that caught my eye was Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal. It’s way radical. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy singing “Light the Fire”? This guy, evidently. But from my talks with him about the subject in college, I have a lot of respect for his opinion. The basic point is that our generation has, for the first time in history, disregarded the worship of the past. He says it’s generational snobbery at best, destructive and sinful at worst.

Anyway, just thought I’d pass along for people interested in worship or, like me, in Dr. Gordon. 🙂