A Time To Build

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“A time to tear down and a time to build up” (Ecclesiastes 3:3).

“And you are living stones that God is building into His spiritual temple” (1Peter 2:5).

Almost every year, Jud faithfully strips, sands and repaints our deck.  A thankless job, he only complains a little when he has to do it again.  We would love to redo our deck with composite materials; but with our three kiddos still at home, it hasn’t fit onto the priority list or the budget list.  So, he continues to strip, sand and repaint.  I’ve had friends who have built houses.  It all starts the same:  the planning process, scoping out land, cutting trees, clearing the land, leveling the land.  Our area of Colorado has seen a couple of devastating wildfires over the past couple of years.  Last year’s fire that took out so many neighborhoods and traumatized so many lives of people we know has given a little perspective on the devastation that happens to our hearts when life turns ugly.  Even though the fire’s destruction happened over a year ago, less than half the homes have been rebuilt.  The cleaning process, the insurance claims, the processing of if or what to rebuild, flood mitigation just takes so much longer than anyone wishes.  My heart breaks for the families that lost their homes this year and are only beginning that process.

The ugly events that destroy rarely last more than moments compared to our whole lives.  If we decide not to let those moments kill us, we still have to deal with the aftermath–which can take years to disassemble, clean-up and mitigate before we can begin to build anew.  As Jud and I have processed through much of the ugly stories in our pasts (both long-ago and recent), we find ourselves ready for God to build us into something again.  Not sure yet what the plans look like, we try fitting ourselves into various projects and causes.  Sometimes we find a group that resonates strongly with us.  Sometimes we just look at each other and say, “Epic FAIL.”  Our journey won’t end once we get beyond the aftermath.  I love that Peter calls us ‘living’ stones.  Because the house that God builds from the ashes is living–it can’t stay static.  His home is constantly changing as we grow and understand more and more of His ways and thoughts.  Some will throw up Hebrews 13:8 at this point saying that God doesn’t change nor does truth change.  I agree.  God doesn’t change.  We do.

Thank God, we do.

For me, I’ve grown in how I interpret the Bible, how I identify and live out truth, how I view others in light of that truth.  I now view truth as a person, Jesus, and allow His Spirit to help me interpret what I read in the Bible.  If I held tightly to my beliefs from 30 years ago, I doubt anyone would want to be around me.  I was on the fast-track in becoming arrogant, bitter, angry and above all … right.  I wouldn’t like the me I would be if God didn’t reveal more of Himself to myself and others whom I respect.  I learn a lot about God as I see the pieces of Himself He has placed in each of us.  I’m only a stone.  So are you.  None of us have all the right answers on anything.  Together, God can make us a temple–a place of sanctuary, a place of peace, a place of worship.

As He builds us into His temple, as we begin to come together for His glory (and not our own rightness), perhaps we will finally have a relationship with Truth.

Have your attitudes changed toward ‘living by the rules’?  Have you experienced growth in areas that you thought were fixed?

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Conversations Among Friends

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“A friend loves at all times; and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).

I miss high school, college and my early twenties days.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I never want to go back to that time.  I don’t miss the insecurities, the drama or the hormones.  I miss the comraderie, the community, the relationships–even the desperate intensity, at times.  While visiting my family in Phoenix, I had lunch with my friend, Jules.  She was a bridesmaid at my wedding 25 years ago.  We had a college class together and attended our small ‘College and Career’ group at church.  She is one of the most accomplished women I know.  One thing she said resonated loudly with me:  It seemed so much easier in college–the passion, the relationships, the bonds.

What happened?

We grew up.  We moved geographically.  Our lives became busy.

In high school and college, no matter how busy or stressed, I always made time for friends.  We hung out at the mall food court, Denny’s-by-the-freeway, Appetito’s, Five Fools, the new frozen yogurt place.  My best friend, Pier, and I used to make ‘midnight runs’ to McDonald’s to get french fries or Wendy’s to get a frosty.  Pier and I went to football games and plays on the weekends, and it seemed we never ran out of things to say or got bored with each other.  If we felt profound, we’d hang at her house and listen to Simon and Garfunkel.

After getting married and having kids, I met with friends at the park, each others’ houses or at McDonald’s play area.  We craved adult interaction.  Sometimes we would run errands together, exercise together or just linger after church.

We shared life.  We wept together.  Laughed together.  Played together.  We became a true community.

Jud and I miss that community.  Life circumstances sometimes lead us to transition.  Somewhere along the way, we lost our community, and now find ourselves trying to get it back.  Problem is, we aren’t the same people we once were, and the social groups that once held great relationships for us don’t satisfy any longer.  Finding deep friendships in our middle years has proven a challenge.  Venturing outside of ourselves, outside of our opinions, outside of our interests takes effort.  Yet, outside of ourselves, deep friendships grow.  Too often, we look for sameness in people–same political views, same social justice views, same spiritual views.  But sameness never has produced the best relationships for us.  Sameness can become a rut and can prevent depth of knowing another person.  I want to enter into others’ stories again.  I believe in reconnecting with forgotten friends and openness to new friends, we will find the community we desire.

I watch my kids with their friends.  They laugh, cry, play together.  They share meals and heartaches.  They treat each other like family.  Many of their friends call me ‘Mom’ out of convenience or because they spend so much time in our home.  I love all of them.  Sometimes I eavesdrop on their conversations and find so much joy in the way they see life and the world.  Their community offers hope to my heart.

I hope that my few deep friendships can become a gathering someday.  Until then, I continue to find joy in my individual friends and know that we have many years of laughing, crying and playing together.

So how have some of you developed deep friendships in your post-child era?

 

 

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Dreams

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In second grade, I  read a book about Francis Scott Key and his poem that has become our national anthem.  The book enthralled me.  I remember telling my teacher, Mrs. Lash, all about it … for about 10 minutes … without taking a breath.  Finally, I paused a moment and she said, ‘Maybe you should write a book report about it.’  Whew, I’m sure she felt great relief.  Until I actually turned in the unassigned book report a day or two later.  From then on, I knew I wanted to be a writer.

Over the years, the dream of writing adjusted as I realized the likelihood of paying bills with that desire.  My plan entailed that I would write in my spare time and work in publishing.  After college, I would work at a small press in AZ, learning publishing from the ground up while getting my masters degree.  After that, I would apply (and, of course, get the job) as an editor at a big house in Chicago–Doubleday, Random House, Simon and Schuster–and work my way up to a senior editor position.  But wait, the dream didn’t end there.  I planned on applying (and getting) a transfer to a London office where I would work in the crime novel division developing new authors.  Of course the huge pipe-dream (because we all have those unrealistic hopes) was to win the Pulitzer by the time I hit 35 and the Nobel Prize for Literature at 50.  No one can accuse me of selling myself short….

In high school, I added winning Wimbledon to my list of dreams.  Never mind that while I won most of my matches for my team, I really hated practicing and did not have the desire to commit my life to the sport.  Regardless, my doubles partner and I would half-heartedly practice in the blazing Arizona sun, then break for a Diet Dr. Pepper (the just-developed soft drink at the time–yes, I’m that old.  I even remember when Diet Coke came on the market) and talk about life, love and dreams.  But, the writing dream continued and became a sort of ‘happy place’ for me.  I would have a winter vacation home in Montana–a large cabin by a lake with a huge overstuffed chair, lots of legal pads for writing (pre-computer age) and lots of books to while away the snowy weather.

So what happened to those dreams?  I fell in love with a man in the Air Force, we traveled to exotic places like Alamogordo, NM, and Erzenhausen, Germany.  Space Command didn’t send us to Chicago or London.  Jud worked mostly shift work and the high demands of military life didn’t afford much home stability when we had our kiddos.  So, I volunteered to stay home and give our children stability.  Now, everyone is grown and mostly independent (even though they still live in our home) and I can explore dreams again.

Except my dreams at 48 take a different slant than they did at 16.  But those childhood dreams help me remember my passions.  While I probably won’t win the Nobel in a couple of years and have yet to write anything worthy of it or the Pulitzer, I have discovered other outlets for those dreams.  Not working at a publishing house hasn’t stopped me from editing projects for friends and family.  Not winning prizes hasn’t stopped me from writing and growing in my ability to communicate through that medium. Just the narcissism has calmed down (I hope).

So when I read about the 3 Chinese girls who died because of the Asiana Flight 214 crash earlier this week, I connected with them.  Two of them were 16 (the age of the third girl wasn’t released; but she was a part of their group, so I’m guessing she was also a teenager)–the age when I believed I could be a rising tennis star.  I wonder what they hoped and dreamed for their futures?  What they hoped and dreamed the summer camp they were traveling to would bring to them?  What did they believe was within their grasp that at age 48 would seem utterly ridiculous?  They won’t have the chance of looking back at their lives and laughing at some of their impossible dreams.

Feeling the need to memorialize those girls and feeling nostalgic for my own dreams from youth, I drink a Diet Dr. Pepper in their honor.  Being 48 and responsible for my health, I’ve given up sodas (diet or otherwise) this year (my mom will think ‘I told you so’ when she reads this, yet, I throw her the bone anyway); but I break my decision this one day in honor of those girls.  I raise my glass of Diet Dr. Pepper and drink to their memory and all the lost dreams of youth.  I may even go out and hit a few tennis serves this weekend and dream of winning Wimbledon someday–just because I have life and can still dream.

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Leading By Example

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My goodness!!  Sometimes I wonder if we truly live in the 21st century?  I’ve read several articles about the Voting Rights Act, Paula Deen (and several other ‘celebrities’ who have let loose with racial and offensive slurs) and Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman over the past few weeks.  I can’t say that I understand much about the Voting Rights Act issue.  Being from Arizona and born in the mid-60s gives me little frame of reference for racial prejudice (illegal immigration didn’t really touch me back then).  Visiting my mom’s stomping grounds in Texas and living in Alabama for 4 1/2 years in the 1990s give me some perspective.  As a child, I remember the days-long road trips to Texas and staring out the car window in boredom.  I saw many signs on restaurants that read ‘Members Only.’  When I asked my parents what that meant, my mom responded, “Only white people can eat there–it’s how they get around the laws.”  Once, when I felt overly-bored of the car and hungry, I said, “So we could stop and eat in one of those places?”  Both my parents stiffened and said, “We will never go to a place with one of those signs.”  At 7, I began to understand prejudice and where my family stood.

Because of those experiences, I understand, from an ideological view, why the Supreme Court overturned the Voting Rights Act.  However, in order for that view to be just and fair, I believe we must repeal the electorate, have each individual vote counted and the majority vote of the people decide our elections.  “Our country has changed,” explained Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.  I want to believe that theory.  But, how can I?  I’ve also read many articles about Texas immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision putting into effect a voter identification law that previously had been blocked.  I read articles about egregious racism by international chef and personality Paula Deen.  The Trayvon Martin case breaks my heart.  And, so my friends from the South don’t think that I’m picking on them, a contestant from Philadelphia on one of my favorite summertime shows (MasterChef) tweeted some really offensive, racist remarks.  Don’t get me started on Alec Baldwin, Mel Gibson or the many other celebrities who while inebriated or just in rage have let loose indefensible insults.  Has our country changed?

Transitioning takes so much time.  I think of all the moves we’ve made with the military.  It took about 3-6 months to feel settled.  It took about 3 months to adjust to our first child, 6 months to adjust to our second child and 18 months to feel like we had control with three (notice I said ‘feel.’  I’m not sure we ever had control….).  Changing a whole nation and culture takes decades; but it does happen.  I look at South Africa, where we have dear friends, and how far they’ve come in 30 years since apartheid and how far they still have to go.  Our friends have said that they are not sure what will happen when the ailing Nelson Mandela actually dies.  He symbolizes grace and forgiveness in a volatile state, much like Gandhi did for India.  Much like Martin Luther King, Jr. in our country.  My heart grows weary and heavy when I think that many of our ‘symbols’ become martyrs.  Mandela’s long life is an exception to that rule.

So, I worry over the implications of not having the Voting Rights Act to protect minority voices in our nation.  I worry that our country’s stability rests on laws and not in the hearts of its people.  Discouragement surrounds my heart at all the injustices I see and feel.

But, I do have hope.  I read multiple articles about the first integrated prom in Wilcox County, Georgia.  How students at the high school went against the adult views of having a ‘black prom’ and a ‘white prom’ since the 1970s and organized their own prom.  My heart almost burst with pride at the courage and tenacity of these students.  I know so many youth and young adults who protect their peers who are bullied.  I cheer on the multitudes who will not accept another suicide in their towns and have befriended the ‘fringe’ kids in their schools.  May we learn by their example how to ‘work at living in peace with everyone … [and to] look after each other so that none … fails to receive the grace of God’ (Hebrews 12:14, 15).

Our country has a long way to go before we see stability with all the transitions.  We won’t know if overturning the Voting Rights Act corrupts the democracy process until we have an election.  But, I know our youth and young adults can accept the challenges that our generation gives them.  We have raised an incredible generation of young adults capable and willing to take ownership of their culture.  Let us celebrate our children and our children’s children as they learn to lead our country and our world.  Let us encourage their efforts to build bridges and seek to live in peace.  Let us stand confidently alongside them as they discover that the foundations we laid are actually springboards for them to go farther than we dreamed possible–just as we have grown past our parents’ and grandparents’ expectations (and perhaps desires).  Power and control are hard to give up; but for us to move forward, we must make room for the next generations to show us where to go.

 

 

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