Eternity is HOW Long?!

Because our God is, well, God, sometimes when I stop and think about certain aspects of his nature, I am in awe. I can’t think how else to describe my feelings, but I’ll try to explain what I mean.

Recently I was at a meeting where everyone spent time in a “concert of prayer.” This meant that everyone — and there must have been nearly 150 people in the room — began to pray out loud at the same time. I have to tell you, it was not the most productive of prayer times for me. Nor was it for a friend sitting beside me. We both found it extremely difficult to concentrate on anything with all that noise. I think we both ended up plugging our ears in an attempt to pray without being utterly distracted. Now, realize that God hears the thoughts and prayers of everyone. In the world! All at the same time. And he not only listens but speaks to each one of us, answering our prayers … All I can say is, wow.

The Bible says he “was and is and is to come.” The idea that he will be forever isn’t quite so mind-boggling for me right now, but to think that he had no beginning … that just hurts my head to imagine. How can someone not have had a beginning? Do you realize, then, how long he was before he created even the angels? Even if he created them a bazillion years before he made people, the answer to that question would be: An infinite amount of time. I find that almost frightening. I was thinking about this the other day and realizing that he was without (or before) his creation as long as he’ll be with his saints in heaven, but even then I can’t get my mind around it.

But I believe it because a) the Bible says it’s so, and b) because that’s just so like God — beyond my wildest imaginings.

I’ve known the Lord in a personal way since I was young and I have to say that I’ve gotten used to knowing such things about our awesome God. I could tell you that he is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent and just move on with the conversation. However, it’s one thing to “know” something and a whole other thing to meditate on it and be awed by his character.

One thing God has used to make himself more real and relevant to me in recent years is motherhood. When I try to explain who God is to my children it makes me realize anew how awesome he is. I want my girls to know him, not just in passing, but to be struck by the awe of his reality.

I love the final verse of Amazing Grace that says, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’ve first begun.” Amazing.

Why the Rush?

Jeff and I pretty much agree on how old our girls should be before they’ll be allowed to date. They’re welcome to start any time after they turn 30. And makeup — oh they’ll probably be 16 before they’re allowed to wear makeup. And by that I mean lip gloss and probably perfume.

The point being, we don’t want them to grow up any faster than they have to. I see how a lot of kids dress these days — little girls wearing snug fitting, low-rise jeans. I’m not interested in throwing in our lot with those trends. As far as I can tell, society seems bent on sexualizing our children — and at earlier and earlier ages. But, why?

As we all know, I would love to freeze my girls and keep them little girls for, oh I don’t know, a decade or so. But that comes from a different place than my reluctance to turn them loose to become little teens in early elementary. I wonder why kindergartners know who Lady Gaga is and why they can sing her songs. What happened to Dora, or Barney, or Mister Rogers?  (I know, parents everywhere shudder when they hear Barney’s theme song, but in fairness, those songs aren’t meant to capture the attention and imagination of adults.)

My purpose here is not to be confrontational. I just think that children should be allowed to be children for a much longer time than is the norm in today’s society. And I can’t help but wonder just what could be the purpose for the push to grow them up before they’ve experienced their childhood. Is it about some kind of commercial gain? Can it be that we’re really hoping that the innocence of childhood is so short-lived? Why should we encourage our children to look and act like anything other than, well … children?

 

Seriously? … I Wonder …

Do you ever wonder about these things, or is it just me?

I was looking at hair color products the other day and noticing that there’s one for touching up your roots that will match any light brown hair color that you could buy. How can it do that? And, if it can do that, why don’t they make one that will match your own natural hair color? Granted, you wouldn’t be able to use it if you’re a brunette wanting to go blonde, but for covering gray it would be ideal.

Since we’re on the subject, I just noticed a coupon for hair color that says it’s not good for “trial or travel sizes.”  So you mean they sell trial size hair color? How does that work, exactly? You try it on the left side of your head to see whether you like it?

Then there are those commercials for the park-assist feature in cars that say, “It virtually parks itself!” Virtually? In my world, “virtually” is synonymous with “almost,” as in, “Buying this product virtually eliminates the need for” … whatever.  And, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a car that is gonna almost park itself.

LOL … if you spend any time on Facebook, Twitter, or just texting your peeps then you surely have seen this uber-cool shortcut that assures someone you’re laughing out loud. But, I wonder … when you type that, are you really LOL-ing or is it perhaps a way of virtually laughing out loud? Hmmm … there’s that word again.

Promises, Promises

My daughter had a worried look on her face this morning at breakfast as she told me she had promised a friend that she would bring her some of her m&m’s. I was quick to realize the problem. She had made short work of those m&m’s as soon as she got home from school yesterday. They were gone.

In one of my favorite movies, Mary Poppins tells her charges, Jane and Michael, when they ask if she’ll stay with them forever, “That’s a pie crust promise —  easily made, easily broken.” And she promises only to stay till the wind changes. I thought the point was well made. But, we must have watched this movie a hundred times, the girls and I, and apparently that particular point had been missed.

It seems that we quickly promise things we don’t necessarily intend to follow through with, or that we aren’t able to, in the end. I told my children today that we really can’t promise we’ll do anything in the future, because we don’t really know what the future holds. We can say we’ll try to do something, or we’ll do that thing if we’re able, or if we remember, etc. But promises are serious business!

“Daddy and I promised,” I told them, “that as long as we’re both alive, we’ll be married to each other. That’s a serious thing to do. And we have an Anniversary just so we can remember that promise. But I never promised Daddy that I would cook dinner for him every night. (Good thing, too!) I try to cook dinner for him every night, but … you know … Stuff happens.”

This is why God tells us in his word that we should only say we’ll do something if the Lord allows. But getting that point across to our kids is an uphill battle; we’re fighting against today’s culture. What the kids hear from all of us, not just the kids at school, is teaching them in a more subtle, but persistent way that it’s okay to make promises about all kinds of things. “I promise we’ll go the park after lunch” or “I promise you’ll be my best friend if you …” And on it goes. Societal norms are hard things to fight against, but in many cases, that’s the task we’re given when raising kids.

And … that’s a topic for another post, another time. Lord willing.

Opposites Attract … Right?

When Jeff and I were dating, several years ago now, I saw our differences and wasn’t phased by them in the least. It was all so interesting, this whole relationship-thing.

But there are differences. And after we were married for about 3 weeks those differences began to assume a more sinister quality. I remember wondering  — during that first year of marriage — What on earth was God thinking when he made men and women so different?! And how did he expect us to live under the same roof without someone suffering serious injury? I’m sure many married folks can relate. We all have qualities that we feel are under-appreciated by our mates. No marriage is without its challenges. So, I’m not suggesting that our experience was in any way unique. Only that I was greatly surprised to realize it. (I know, a bit naive of me. What can I say.)

Jeff is not a conversationalist; I am. I am not a computer genius; Jeff is. Jeff is a self-proclaimed geek; I laugh at his geek-ness. I am way more cautious than he is, and he gets way more annoyed by little things than I. I thrive on relationships; Jeff thrives on time spent on the computer and in solitude (that made for an interesting first year).

My favorite vegetables Jeff can barely choke down; and Jeff’s favorite “vegetables” … well, they’re really not vegetables at all. He’s a meat and potatoes kind of guy; I could do without meat and potatoes. Just give me pasta and those veggies and I’m good. While he has greatly enjoyed sky-diving, I might consider jumping out of a plane only  if it were going down. And even then I might not — I might just go down with it. Hard to say. And he’s been known to skip to his favorite parts of his favorite movies, while that thought makes me cringe. If I’m going to watch a favorite movie, you can bet I’m going to watch it all the way through.

That said, we do have things in common: We both like watching movies (though he lives for the action/fight scenes and I don’t see the point and just wait for the dialogue).  Sadly, we both excel at procrastinating. And happily, we both adore our daughters. We can easily converse about them for longer than almost any other topic. (He’s a great dad!)

We make the most of our commonalities and try to work out our differences. It takes work. We both know that we’re in this marriage for life. Therefore, we might as well work to make it fun, or we’ll be unhappy for the rest of our lives.  So far, so good!

 

Snippets

Here are a few scattered examples of what I love about kids. Their minds work in a unique way. And they’re typically not shy about revealing it to us.


The other day, Katey was all excited to show me how she could tie the bow on the back of her dress. Here’s how she did it: She put on the dress, then pulled her arms in and turned the dress around — so now the bow was in the front — she tied it then pulled her arms in again and turned it around once more. Resourceful little thing!


It made me think of the trick my grandmother had used when she was a little child to help her button the back of her dress. She found that if she stood on a little stool she was better able to reach all the buttons. At least that’s how she thought it worked.


Now, Allyson has always been our — shall we say — our picky eater. (That may be mildly understating the matter.) Anyway, chicken is one of the few dinners she will eat. She told me that calling the turkey “chicken” on Thanksgiving made it taste better. Honestly, it made me feel a little better, being as we’ve been giving her turkey for years and calling it chicken. At least now she knows, and its all on the up and up.


Several years ago, I was finishing a conversation with Katey, apparently within earshot of Allyson. Here’s how that went.  I said, “If I were you, I’d take what I could get.”  And Allyson said, in a puzzled voice, “But then … you’d be Katey.”

The Myth of No-Line Bifocals

At a very early age I began noticing that something was going on with my eyes. I think it was last year. This is how I knew something was not right — anything I held closer than about 12 inches from my face was completely blurry. What’s that about? I remembered my dad complaining that he knew he needed reading glasses because suddenly his arms were too short. I guess this shortening of the arms must run in the family.

However, reading glasses — you know, the kind you can buy at WalMart for twenty dollars — were not going to cut it because I wear glasses for distance, too. So, rather than begin juggling glasses like a court jester juggles balls, I would have to wear bifocals.

I could do that. I had bifocals when I was in early elementary school. After the initial two weeks of falling up stairs and tripping over my feet, I never even noticed I was wearing them. So, I went to the ophthalmologist and got myself a prescription for bifocals. However, she said she wanted me to get progressive lenses, otherwise known as no-line bifocals, because they allow you to see close up at the bottom of the lens and progressively further away as you go higher up the lenses. (Hence, the name.) Sounded good. I really didn’t care that no one would be able to see the line, giving away my secret that I’m old enough to need bifocals. All a person has to do is look at the rest of me to figure that out!

Now, these lenses are more expensive than regular bifocals, so it took me about a year to come to terms with spending the amount of money it would require, but eventually, I took the plunge and got myself some progressive lenses. I could hear the happy-music (you know, the kind to which Snoopy does his happy-dance) as I walked out of the store wearing my new specs. At last I was going to be able to read everything!

This euphoria lasted exactly until I stopped at the grocery store later that day. I became dizzy from trying to switch from reading labels close up to seeing things on the shelf. I wisely realized this was the “getting adjusted phase.” It would pass.

But, I’m here to tell ya, after several months I’m beginning to suspect that there will never be a solution to my problem. I’m thinking of going out and buying a cane. I enjoyed using my eyes while they worked.  Thanks for the memories!

Here’s my problem —okay, problems: First, when I’m talking with folks, not only do I use my hands (no, I’m not Italian) but I’ve just discovered that I also nod. A lot. Well, when that happens, if my eyes are open, I get very dizzy, because I’m seeing through all the different zones of the lenses in a very short period of time.

My second problem with these blasted glasses is that each “zone” of the lens seems to be microscopic in height. Thus causing all kinds of blurring if my head moves, or the words move. Sometimes it takes me 30 seconds to find exactly the part of the lens I need to look through when the book is exactly that distance from my eyes. And sometimes I simply cannot find that spot. At all.

And finally, my church has a balcony; and we sit in the balcony. You don’t see the problem? Try to imagine looking at the pastor, who stands below me. Now I have to drop my chin to my chest in order to see through the top-most part of the stupid glasses. And then there’s the hymn book that I’m trying to share with children who are shorter than I am, thus requiring me to hold it at least two-feet away from my face. Once again requiring perfect aim to be able to see the words without blurring. And at least one child is “helping” by holding the other side of the book. Do you see why I may just give up on the whole thing?

Coming to Terms With Personality

Yesterday I asked my husband what two words he would use to describe our older daughter. After some thought he said, “Helpful  and stubborn.” Then I asked how he would describe our younger daughter and he said, “Silly and stubborn.” So, of course, I decided that the trait they both share — stubbornness — must come from him. While, the other two traits — helpful and silly — surely come from me. (Whether or not this is really true will probably be debated in our house for years to come.)

But this conversation got me thinking about our personalities. I’m pretty sure there are things about all of our personalities that we’d like to change, and things we’re happy with. I always wished I was less outgoing. I really wanted to have my brother’s quiet self-confidence. I was teased a good bit as a kid about talking too much. (Imagine that!) And it wasn’t until I began working as a teller in a bank, while in my thirties, that I realized that my love for people is … well, it’s just the way God made me. And he made me that way for a reason. I didn’t like, so much, the banking/money part of the job, but I loved making the customers feel welcome. I could look up and see a handful of people waiting in line and greet most of them by name. And they liked that. That was when I began to understand that God created in me a love for people. It isn’t something to be embarrassed about, and it isn’t something to be hidden away.

I’m still wondering what my girls’ personalities will be like when they’re grown. I can imagine Allyson as a happy, calm, friendly young woman who wants to do the best she can, as long as she gets to go out to eat once in a while. She seems to have no problem talking with folks, and making friends. And I can see Katey as an exuberant music-lover with lots of friends.

At present, Katey sings her way through most of her jobs. That’s not to say that she easily accepts that the job must be done without argument or debate - only that she can often be located by following the sound of her singing. She’s extremely loving, and she’s very silly; she loves to laugh. And she loves to make her sister laugh!

And these days Allyson loves to help me around the house (that is, when she’s in the mood). She enjoys pretending to be the teacher — reading to her dolls, whilst pausing to show the pictures to the whole class. She wears her heart on her sleeve, so it’s easy to figure out what kind of mood she’s in. And sometimes that’s a good thing.

One thing (among many) that I hope for my girls is that they’ll be happy with their personalities, knowing that God has made them just as he wants them to be. Because it took me a while to appreciate that.

Stages of Motherhood (or Things of Long Ago)

I’ve been a mom now for seven years. I’ve seen my girls grow from babies, to toddlers, to preschoolers and on to school. I have to say, I’ve enjoyed each stage, sometimes in ways that have surprised me.

It’s probably no secret that I loved having newborns. I loved feeling needed. I loved the snuggling. I loved that they were completely helpless. In retrospect now I realize how wonderful it was that they weren’t arguing, whining or rolling their eyes at me. It was an all-around awesome stage.

… Which led to the time when they began rolling over, sitting up, holding the bottle for themselves, smiling big smiles and just being even more adorable. They could sit on my hip when I carried them. And I took pictures. So many pictures. If not for digital cameras, we would have owed our income to whoever it was that did the developing of film back in the day. Remember how that was? Well, with these newfangled cameras I could just click and click and click … And upload all the photos to our computer. (Jeff might have mentioned one or twice that I should begin deleting some pictures before uploading them so as not to overload our poor little computer.) This was also the time when my girls began learning to talk. And the fun continued!

Then, because they’re only 14 months apart, they were soon both toddlers. And they were both off and running. And, not surprisingly, they were running in opposite directions. That’s when I had to step it up a notch to keep from losing one or both of my kids, and my sanity. But the cuteness continued, luckily for them! They were curious and talkative and energized.

And then they were preschoolers — learning their letters and numbers. We spent many a spring and summer day drawing with chalk on our driveway. We drew trees and shapes and sounded out little words and identified numbers. And we blew bubbles. Lots and lots of bubbles. These are the things I remember most about those days.

But sooner than I would have liked, kindergarten was coming to pluck Allyson out of my tight, mommy grasp. They didn’t go to preschool, so this would be the first time she was out of the house, out of my sight and my control. And she couldn’t wait! The day came and Katey and I began the wait — that three-hour wait till she would come home, and life would return to normal. Until the next day. But soon we got used to the new rhythm of our life. And soon it was Katey’s turn.

So, now they’re both in school — during the afternoons, anyway. And I busy myself with various things, like writing posts for this new blog of mine, and doing laundry and making dinner. Then I pick them up from the bus and help with homework, deal with bad moods sometimes, and get ready to begin all over again tomorrow. There are still things I enjoy. I like seeing them become a little more independent each day; I love watching them get better and better at reading; I love pulling them onto my lap and listening to them talk about their day. And I love being their mom. What a gift!

This is a poem by James Whitcomb Riley that I love. It comes to mind when I reflect on the stages of childhood. And, despite the first line, it makes me cry.

There! little girl, don’t cry!
They have broken your doll, I know;
And your tea-set blue,
And your play-house, too,
Are things of the long ago;
But childish troubles will soon pass by. —
There! little girl, don’t cry!

There! little girl, don’t cry!
They have broken your slate, I know;
And the glad, wild ways
Of your school-girl days
Are things of the long ago;
But life and love sill soon come by. —
There! little girl, don’t cry!

There! little girl, don’t cry!
They have broken your heart, I know;
And the rainbow gleams
Of your youthful dreams
Are things of the long ago;
But Heaven holds all for which you sigh. —
There! little girl, don’t cry!

Things That Make Me Go Hmmm …

There are things I wonder about as I go through my days. Some are things that seem important and some are things that really don’t. But I still wonder. I wonder whether anyone else wonders about these things. Here are a few examples of things that make me go hmmmm …

Do birds — the ones that don’t fly south in the winter — get cold in the frigid months? I was driving past a small pond one day last week and I saw some water birds sitting in the water. (I know, go figure.)  How can they not be one hundred percent miserable? I see little finches and cardinals huddled up in my backyard with their feathers all fluffed — it seems like they’re trying to keep from freezing solid right there on the branches. And I wonder whether winter is just one long torturous blur for them, or whether it doesn’t really bother them.

Here’s something that my five-year old asked me tonight, and I’ve thought about it before: What age will we be in heaven? Will we spend eternity at the age we were when we ended our earthly lives? This seems to be what I’ve always assumed would happen, but is that the case? I heard someone postulate that we’ll all be about 33 years old — the age Jesus was when he died. Interesting thought. I haven’t ever found the answer in the Bible, though. Makes me wonder …

In the superhero realm: Why does a simple black mask and/or a different outfit seem to hide one’s identity? Is spandex really that amazing? Superman, for example, seems to tend to his heroic tasks with no more than a change of clothes and slightly messed up hair, with no one being the wiser. Why is this, do you think?

And why do the two days of my weekend seem to speed past oh-so-much-faster than, say, my Tuesdays and Wednesdays do, for example.  I’m pretty sure it’s the same reason that 24 hours of labor seem like forever, but my week of vacation is over before it even seemed to begin.

So, there you have it — a glimpse into what goes on in my mind. I’m sure that one day, I’ll know the answer to one or two of these things. Just as I’m sure that one or two of these conundrums will always be … well, conundrums. C’est la vie.