Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Rewind: A Look Under the Hood

Mack's parents threw him a surprise party for his seventeenth birthday. I'm not quite sure how I ended up there, as our friendship had only just begun. But nevertheless, there I was, with some other friends from church and a handful of friends from his school. I don't remember many details. I know I met his sister and her family for the first time, but I barely remember that, except for how adorable his little red-headed niece and nephew were. I'm sure there were cake and presents. We probably played some games. But one moment is crystal clear, as if it happened yesterday. A group of us ventured out to the workshop to see the car he was rebuilding with his dad. A 1966 Chevelle that he had bought at the estate sale of a great uncle when he was maybe thirteen. He paid $250 for it, with money he had earned on his paper route. Now, I know nothing about cars. But I'm a history nerd. I love antiques, interesting old finds, and I've always thought vintage cars were very cool. When I exclaimed over his dusty old car, he looked at me with what I can only describe as shock. I listened as he told me with pride how he had acquired it, what he and his dad were doing to it, and all it would be when it was finished. Looking back, I realize that those few minutes provided one of my first glimpses at who Mack is deep inside: a dreamer, a visionary, a do-er, a collector, a tinkerer, a worker, and a sentimentalist. It was a short list, but would only grow from there. In my mind, I quietly doubted that old car would ever be all he said. And right there, I should have learned something else about my Mack. He is stubborn and persistent and doesn't give up when he sets his mind to something, and I shouldn't ever doubt what he says he will accomplish. But it took a few more years for me to learn that particular lesson. He did indeed get that old car running. And he gave me the honor of giving her a name: we called her the She-Devil. Our first dates would be in that car. I could hear her pipes the moment Mack would turn down my street to pick me up, and the way an old car smells as it burns through fuel stays with me. Mack loved that car, but time went by, and growing up had to be done, and the She-Devil was sold to help provide for an ever-growing family. Though she's been gone for years, she holds a special place in both our hearts. Even now, if an old classic rolls by me on the road, and I happen to hear that distinct rumble and catch a whiff of her engine running as she cruises by, my heart skips a beat. For just a moment I'm eighteen again, with the wind in my hair, holding the hand of the boy who would hold my heart for a lifetime.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Choosing Gratitude

Some friends and I are doing a study on the book "Choosing Gratitude" by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. I was kind of skeptical going into this book- viewing gratitude as one of those "icing on the cake" kind of spiritual attributes, but certainly not as "important" as service, patience, unconditional love, etc. I actually wondered how someone was going to write a 150 page book on the concept of being thankful. Ironically, the author addresses this very mentality in the first few pages.

But what I am learning is that gratitude is so much more than a brief "thank you" or a nod towards God when things are going well. It's an all day, every day intense effort to remember and acknowledge all God is, all He has done, and all He has blessed me with. It's being able to say "thank you" for all things in life, not just the ones I appreciate at the moment.

But it's even more with than that. I am learning how God's grace cultivates gratitude. If we have a proper perspective of who God is and who we are in relation to Him, we can't help but be humbly grateful, and that gratitude pervades every aspect of our lives. We become all of those "more important" attributes: we are more patient and forbearing because we recognize how much patience the Lord shows to us; we are more easily forgiving, because we are grateful for the forgiveness that has been shown to us; we serve and give because we look to, in some small measure, actually express that thanks.

And on the other side, I am learning how many sins and struggles are borne from a heart of ingratitude. It leads to resentment, bitterness, anger, pride, selfishness, rebellion, jealousy, and so many more. It is listed among the other, seemingly more "treacherous" sins listed in 2 Timothy, and given as the root of the sins listed in Romans 1.

Early in my marriage, when circumstances weren't going so well, I developed a little phrase in my own heart, "When you sow seeds of discontentment, you will only reap the fruits of bitterness." Certainly not wanting to become a bitter person, I would repeat this little mantra over and over to myself: while I cleaned my less-than-desirable residence, while I trudged through and shoveled the snow that I hated so much, while my husband worked long hours at a job that wasn't paying enough to make ends meet, while we struggled to figure out if we had made a mistake by getting married, while our only car became less and less reliable, while I went to the grocery store with $20 in my pocket to see us through for the whole week. With the Lord's grace, it worked. We emerged on the other side, our marriage not only intact, but stronger. He provided exactly what we needed, both physically and spiritually, at every turn. The "grace" part of it all is that, while I certainly had moments of resentment and discontentment while enduring this season of life, I truly did have no lingering feelings of bitterness about the struggles. But what I am learning now is that it starts somewhere deeper. Those seeds of discontent about which I warned myself actually start with ingratitude. When we cease to be thankful for where the Lord has us at a particular moment, for what we do have, for the ways He has spared us, that's when the discontentment begins to grow. And that leads to a host of other problems.

So that's what I'm learning so far on this little journey. And I'm only on Chapter 3.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Mahwwiage...Is What Brings Us Toogethah Today

My kids always have loads of questions about marriage. Here is a sampling (followed by what's going on in Mom's head):

~How old do you have to be to get married? (Umm... well... depends who you ask)
~How old were you when you got married? (Yay- that's an easy one!)
~Then why does Dad say we have to wait 'til we're 30? ('Cause he's silly)
~What does engaged mean? (Another easy one, yay!)
~Can you have kids when you're engaged or do you have to wait 'til you're married? (Oh great, a question about sex, only they don't know yet that's what they're asking about. Let's wait a little while to open that can of worms. Just a "wait 'til you're married" is good enough for now.)
~Then how did Mary have Jesus when she was just engaged? (Even better, sex and theology all wrapped up in one question. They sure don't make it easy on poor Mom, do they?)
~Can you ever decide you don't want to be married to someone anymore? (Oh boy...)
~Will you and Dad ever get a divorce? (Nope, Lord willing)
~If God doesn't like divorce, why do people do it? (Good question. Too many answers.)
~What if 2 boys ask me at the same time to marry them? (Hahahaha... one of my personal faves, courtesy of Faithie)
~Will you pick what girl I'm going to marry? (Maybe, son, maybe)
~How will I know if she's really a Christian? (Now THAT'S a good question, son)

Anyway, the kids and I were having one of our many discussions on the topic last night on the way home from church. Faithie has figured out that you are an "adult" at 18 and can legally be married then, and I said, "Yes, but 18 is really too young to be married. Most people aren't mature enough to be married at that age." Of course, she asked me what I meant, and I answered, "Well, being married can be really hard work. You have to learn how to still love someone and live with them even if you're angry at them and don't like them very much sometimes." Her response? "I don't think it would be hard work to be married to Dad. He's such a kind man. And he loves God. And he's really fun." (Yes he is, sweet Faithie, yes he is. Remember that, and don't settle for less.)

Wednesday, 2 March 2011


I do not get the current hairstyles of today's male youth. We work with the teens at our church, so I see the variety of "styles" weekly at least. The bushy hair that has no shape and hasn't seen a styling product in who knows how long. Or the plastered-down-over-the-forehead-and-ears-like-a-helmet look. Or the long "bangs" swept to the side, which are possibly a worse contribution to society by Justin Bieber than his music. I understand buzz cuts, spiky crew cuts, even long hair that is washed and conditioned, but this completely unkempt, not long and not short, as bushy on the sides as it is on the top business is utter nonsense to me. I know I sound like a crotchety old woman, completely resistant to change and the fashion choices of the next generation. But that's not it at all. I just don't like it- I think it looks sloppy and lazy. I remember a kid in high school who would routinely not comb or style his hair, because "Why should I? I don't have to look at it." He was a cool and funny kid, and we all laughed with him about his choice to deviate from the norm in that little area. But his hair did look awful. My point? Almost every teen I know right now has hair that looks just like that kid's did, only it's supposedly their "style."

C-Ray was due for a haircut. His hair was looking very much like the "styles" I have just described. I had been telling him for several days that it was time, but just hadn't found the time to do it. I helped chaperone a field trip with Faithie's class yesterday. I noticed that, even in third grade, the boys were sporting this supposed "style." I have been trying to let my 3 older kids start making some small decisions about their appearances. I have hopes that if I don't dictate and over-regulate the things that really don't matter, like hairstyles, my kids won't be as likely to rebel later on in the areas that do. I'm not talking about compromising standards, just choosing the battles that will actually impact their futures, their testimonies before the Lord, their ability to become productive members of society. I had the thought that maybe C-Ray didn't want his usual short crew cut, that maybe he felt self-conscious that his hair was shorter than his peers. So I asked him, "Hey buddy, do you want me to cut your hair? Or do you want to keep it longer, like some of your friends have it?" I held my breath a little, waiting for his answer, and the thoughts raced through my mind, "Oh, how I hate those hairstyles. I hate how shaggy you look right now. I'm gonna have to do some fast talking with your father to let you keep it like this. Why did I just put that option out there?" I didn't have to hold my breath for long, as he answered, "No, I want a haircut. My head is always sweaty and my hair keeps sticking up funny." Smart kid. I know a whole bunch of teens that should take notes ;)