Monday, January 21, 2008

Some Holiday

Well, today was the official observation of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. I have a friend - a real "Southern gentleman" type whom I love - who sends me an email every year discussing the impending celebration of Lee-Jackson-King Day. He's about my age, and I guess he remembers commemorating these three men together (talk about a strange juxtaposition!) for several years here in Virginia in the nineties. Here's the text he sends out:

Dear Friends and Family--
In Virginia, around the third weekend in January, we celebrate the Lee-Jackson-King Holiday--honoring three Americans, two of whom were Virginians.
A little bit about those Virginians-
Robert Edward Lee was born on January 19, 1807.
Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson was born on January 21, 1824.
These gentlemen were courageous, honorable, erudite and worthy of emulation.
"Human virtue should be equal to human calamity." -- Lee
"You may be whatever you resolve to be." - Jackson
A little bit of Virginian and Southern history... Have a great weekend!

It would seem, however, that he never got the memo that the "Lee-Jackson" part of the holiday has been virtually eliminated. (
See here.)

Either way, I've been pondering today the Jackson quote, "You may be whatever you resolve to be." Oh, how I wish it were that simple! If only I could do ANY one thing which I resolve to do with the resolve that I originally intended to bring to bear on the task... let alone being WHATEVER I resolve to be! I resolve to be kind. patient. longsuffering. gentle. not to speak harshly to anyone today. Yeah right.

I have four kids, plus a husband who sometimes drives me as crazy as I drive him. (He loves me as much as I love him, too, though, so all is well!) There are people in my life of whom I could genuinely ask, "With friends like this, who needs enemies?!" I'm in a church full of sinners (myself at the top of the list, of course) and an extended family full of crazies (ditto on the top of that list, too, for I'm sure they'd say the same about me). Living in the midst of all those other people I have to deal with (and - worse - living in my own skin - with myself - 24-7), I can't seem to do or be much of anything that I long to do or be! I long to be sweet and kind and forbearing and loving and patient and peaceful and radiantly joyful. I end up, more often than not, being grumpy and mean and short-tempered and anxious and frenzied and rather harried.

"15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20Now 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. 21So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Thanks be to God indeed. Thank you, Lord, for You. Thank You for Your unending, never-failing, ever-pursuing love. In spite of me. Because of me. No one else loves me like that. I am utterly undone.

Even when my MLK, Jr. Day began at 6 am with a near-crash on the computer... followed by six hours of tech-"support"-assisted trouble-shooting of our home computer network... (Sometimes I'd rather have the thick Indian accent of outsourcing than the techno-queen computerized vocal "person" I talked to today!)... Followed by several more hours of cleaning out the school-room closet (my 13-yr. old daughter has lost a very important school book) and the clothes closet in the girls' room (my younger daughters - 7 & 9 - live in a pig sty)... My husband helped with dinner when he got home, which I deeply appreciate, but I know that - just like when my children "help" in the kitchen - it means that the clean-up of the mountain of dishes waiting for me downstairs (he's taken my daughter to orchestra) will take me another hour or so. Especially since I had my son "help" with the clean up when we were done. (I'm hiding out up here and afraid to go down and look at what's awaiting me!)

Anyone who can "resolve" to be whatever good thing he wants to be in the midst of a day like today (or yesterday, or tomorrow, whether mine or yours) and actually achieve it... well, you go ahead and tell yourself you're pulling that off. And I'll tell you the same thing I said earlier: "Yeah, right." But if you're gimping along, clinging to Jesus and His perfection that covers all your muck, then I say we are kindred spirits...

Oops. Time to go meet my daughter and husband who are on their way in downstairs... give 'em a hug and thank them for loving me with so rare a love... So resolved.

And so failed. (Smile.) Instead, I snapped at my husband for his irritation over the state of the kitchen. "Freedom from myself will be the sweetest rest I've ever known..."

Thanks be to God! (Even on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day...)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I should be sleeping...

It is now almost 3:00 am, and though on any "normal" night I might have awakened at this hour after several hours of sleep and been unable to get back to sleep, tonight (this morning, actually) I have yet to go to bed. I am just too wired. I was absolutely exhausted (and could have fallen asleep in about two minutes) when we sat down with the two older kids to watch the third of the "Bourne" movies at 9:05. Two batches of popcorn-brewing (the first one was accidentally ruined by a salt shaker with a faulty top) and a spilled Mountain Dew later (spilled by my son - all over me, the couch, and the floor), we finally got started around 9:30 or so. After all the pausings for potty breaks and answerings of queries ("Who is that guy?" and "Why did she do that?" and "Wait, I'm really confused" and "Do CIA guys really do stuff like that?!"), it was midnight when we finally finished. Of course, after a movie like that, I was wide awake. I cleaned up the snack mess in the kitchen. I took out the dog. I chatted with my husband until he began snoring. I lay in bed thinking about the movie, and the day, and tomorrow, and life...

Eventually I gave up on sleepiness and got up and came up here to the computer. I've composed a letter to the parent of a student I'm tutoring, gotten the junk email that has arrived since this morning, and read the blog of a dear friend walking through the painful experience of carrying a terminally-ill baby with Trisomy 18. (See Heidi's Blog) And now I've jumped on here for a little note. Eventually I am going to have to lie down and try again to find a place of sleepiness. My children will be getting up in just a few short hours.

In the meantime, what great insights and lessons are there in the "Bourne" movies? I have no idea, but I do find that I am really happy that he was resistant to the program back at the beginning (once he knew what it was), and that in the end he was able to finally declare that he was "no longer Jason Bourne." There is something redemptive in his journey, and in the final place he landed.

Oh, to have hope that we don't have to continue forever to be the awful things we don't want to keep being! Sometimes my heart screams, "Is it possible? Is full redemption really coming one day?" I am comforted by Philippians 1:6, "...being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." How glorious that day will be!

I think of the lyrics to a Chris Rice song: "Freedom from myself will be the sweetest rest I've ever known." It is from the song "Prone to Wander."

On the surface not a ripple
Undercurrent wages war
Quiet in the sanctuary
Sin is crouching at my door

How can I be so prone to wander
So prone to leave You
So prone to die
And how can You be so full of mercy
You race to meet me and bring me back to life

I wake to find my soul in fragments
Given to a thousand loves
But only One will have no rival
Hangs to heal me, spills His blood

How can I be so prone to wander
So prone to leave You
So prone to die
And how can You be so full of mercy
You race to meet me and bring me back to life

Curse-reversing Day of Jesus
When you finally seize my soul
Freedom from myself will be the
Sweetest rest I’ve ever known

How can I be so prone to wander
So prone to leave You
So prone to die
And how can You be so full of mercy
You race to meet me and bring my back to life

-from the album "Deep Enough to Dream"
Listen here

Has it really been ten years since that album came out?!! You can see my last post for my feelings about THAT!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me

Well, my "sad little pen-and-ink" journal is again up and running, because it didn't take long to figure out that a personal journal is very different from a personal Blog, however much one is certain that no one else will ever read the latter. When one writes a Blog, one is composing for an audience - even if the audience is anonymous or imaginary. When one writes a journal (or at least when I do), the audience is either one's self or (again, when I do it) the Lord. There I find first person dialogue with the Almighty, with all its honesty and unguardedness. It is indispensable and necessary, and is as important - for me - as reading the Word, or praying, or memorizing Scripture, or gathering together with other believers for encouragement and worship and exhortation and fellowship.

Blogging, however, is not at all necessary. It is not a connection point in one's relationship with the Lord. And it is probably neither fully revelatory nor unguarded. It is simply - for me - one of the expressions of the craft of the written word. Like reading and then wrestling with the ideas that arise thereby, it is a part of the processing of the musing of life. It is true composition at its best. It is an art. And although I'm not necessarily very good at it, it is a noble exercise in its own right. It stretches my brain. It uses my intellect. It forces me to process and organize and make tangible the stream-of-conscious thoughts and random flow of emotions that move through me... to attempt to turn them into something at least remotely intelligible. No matter if no one ever reads them. They are written for you, the hazy and undefined one whom I imagine cares to read my thoughts. (Yeah, right!)

Today, my thoughts are raw and my emotions a little fragile. Today I turned 41. This would not normally bother me in the least, I don't think, but this birthday comes at the end of a year during which I experienced several miscarriages. Four little lives have been created, and yet for one reason or another didn't survive. Why? Who knows. The party line at the OB/GYN office is "old eggs." As we get older (my husband is 40, and I, 41) our chances of a "blighted ovum" increase, and things "just don't come together quite right, genetically" and this is "Mother Nature's way (don't you hate her?) of taking care of a baby that wasn't growing right." All fine and good unless you long for another baby. All a little strange four times in a row. All a little sad, even in light of an (at least limping) understanding of the goodness and sovereignty of God, and even in the midst of (limping) trust and hope and joy in His plans for my life and for our family.

So, today is my birthday, and all it means this time around is that I'm "too old to have another baby." Too old. Old. I don't want to be old. I don't feel old.

And so, alas, today's thoughts are far less noble and aspiring than they could be. I think of an Isaac Watts quote I remember, from Improvements of the Mind: "Once a day... call yourselves to an account what new proposition or truth you have gained, what further confirmation of known truths, and what advances you have made in any part of knowledge." A worthy aspiration, but today is not that day. At least not here on this Blog.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Lost in the Translation

It is amusing to me that I have created a blog. I am not an electronic-medium type. And, who am I to think that anyone would ever want to read anything I have to say? In reality, I think I haven't created this blog for any other soul to read, ever... it is just for me. I don't much care for MySpace, and for reasons beyond the reality of psycho Internet predators who jump on and look for unsuspecting, young, naive victims. It seems to me to be sometimes a bit of a venue for sophomoric meanness and shallow, mindless frivolity. If I were a singer/songwriter trying to "get my stuff out there" or a professor trying to give information to her students or something, maybe. But as a way to communicate or "do relationship"... I don't know, it just isn't my cup of tea.

I have seen many blogs that have some depth and importance to them, however, and I've also seen some that are quite light, but intentionally so, and thereby terribly entertaining. I anticipate that this blog will never be light and entertaining, however, for I am neither. And, if it ever happens to achieve such distinction, it will likely only have depth and importance to me, as I assume I will be the only one ever to read it. Why make it, then?

Well, I suppose that this is a silly little stab in the direction of "modernized communication" for me. I have always kept a journal, but it is a sad little pen-and-ink affair that remains in my (gasp) Daytimer, and has been sorely neglected of late. (Yes, I still have a paper-based, non-electronic calendar where I write down the appointments and meetings that are the skeletons of my days!)

There is something powerful about the handwritten page, for me, as it contains the handwritten word, which is - like it or not - different from the typed word on the typed page. The latter must work hard to overcome a certain emptiness that is just part of its nature. There is no smell to it. There is no tangible feel to it. There is no distinctive penmanship. You don't touch it and breathe it and weep over it, leaving little blotches that will forever mark the poignant pages. And so it is a little cold and detached, in a way that it can't help, but that it must bear nevertheless.

I remember once receiving flowers from my not-yet-husband, delivered from across the miles to the school where I was teaching, and opening the attached card. The very large, sloppy, juvenile handwriting of the florist's assistant jumped out at me, and the essence of my sweetheart--the true author of the message of undying love accompanying the bouquet--was somehow lost in the translation.

Much will be lost in the translation here, I'm sure, but much will be gained in the actual doing of the thing, which is, after all, the point.