Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Story Hours

I cracked the book open to the halfway mark at the breakfast table and picked up where we left off yesterday afternoon. I intended to read a chapter or two before moving on to our school work. I read one chapter and then two. I read for an hour and then two. I read until my neck was sore, my throat was swollen and scratchy.

Francis Hodgson Burnett spins a story in a way that spurs a reader on. We became Sara’s soulmates, and Becky’s, and Ermengarde’s. We were heartbroken in the sad places and as the words began to wind their way to a triumphant ending, the children burst into delighted cheers. They rolled around on the floor with glee. They squealed and chortled. They jumped up and down on the sofa. “Don’t stop reading, Mama! Read more! Read more!” The oldest two are already old friends of this tale and they were as swept along in the current of the story as the younger ones.

Oh, we love a good book!

If your children are sixish or beyond, run to the library, check out A Little Princess and spend a few evenings reading aloud. I bet somebody will start jumping up and down on the sofa.

This Is Why

Over the past few weeks, our family has been watching hours of behind the scenes in The Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition. It's been interesting to get a bird's eye view into the minds of the movie makers and actors in the movies. In the spirit of The Lord of the Rings, I've decided to give you a behind the scenes look at my last post.

Coping with aging has been an ongoing battle for me for the last few years and I’m sure I am not alone in this. As a Christian, I live against the backdrop of a known and secure ending. It is a comfort. But arriving at the end is something like the voyage taken in Pilgrim’s Progress. For all Christian knows where he is headed, he finds himself enticed away from the path leading to the Celestial City again and again into places where he does not belong.

The Bible is my favorite book for many reasons. The one that is pertinent to this post is that all of the characters, apart from Christ, are shown as frail creatures. They are not polished, perfect, Sunday people. They swear; they are jealous; they are prideful; they are depressed; they get angry; they are just like me. The men and women in the Bible come face to face with their own depravity. Perfection is well beyond their grasp. Mine too.

I am at an exploring place with my writing. When I originally wrote the Wildflower post, I wrapped it up with thoughts of how earthly beauty doesn’t matter because my heavenly future is beyond my wildest dreams. Somehow it sounded trite. We live in the here and now and slog through a lifetime of sanctification and it’s not a neat and tidy process. Sometimes we are knocked down time and again by unsavory thoughts and or actions. Sometimes we never achieve victory in certain sections of our life on this side of heaven. I think Christians are particularly guilty of avoiding looking sin full in the face for fear we might somehow be contaminated by it. We are! Apart from Christ, we are covered up in the stuff! I think, from time to time, we must take a long hard look at our shortcomings in order to realize how desperate we are. And in the course of time, by doing so, we come to see God at work in exactly the place where we need him most. And this is why I chose to write Wildflowers in such a somber tone.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Wildflowers

Lauren came in from the outdoors with a handful of wildflowers. Strands of dark hair escaped her braid and curled around her rosy cheeks. Exquisite. She and the wildflowers. She found a slender vase and arranged the blossoms. They bring springtime beauty to the kitchen.

I’ve arrived at the place where torch is passed from mother to daughter. Lauren grows more beautiful each day. Tall, straight and willowy. Her peaches and cream complexion and long dark lashes unspoiled by time or cosmetics. I watch her become what I have been, with wonder, and regret.

The flowers on the kitchen table are lovely, but not like yesterday. They droop a bit and their colors are muted and I see myself in their fading. I look in the mirror and note the handiwork of Time, an unhurried, deliberate, cruel artist. I fight back with colors and creams and while they ease his harsh etching, they do not erase. Time is relentless and he will remain industrious until he claims the whole of me. For this I mourn. I know that on the other side of glory, I will be made whole and new and more wondrous than I have ever been, but still, I am a short-sighted creature. Like Lot’s wife, I look back and remember and grasp for what was.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Cardinals

I wanted to write a post for Stuart in September, in honor of our fifteenth anniversary, that would record how much I love him. But, he forgot about our anniversary until we had been married for fifteen years and one day and this forgetting smudged his outstanding qualities and left me without any romantic writing material.

When February rolled around, I was too busy buying wine, lighting candles, cooking dinner and hanging a pink gauzy canopy over the bed to take the time to record my appreciation for my husband. Stuart is not a romantic and it’s taken me these fifteen years to figure out that it’s my job to sweep us off our feet. Once, on Valentine’s Day, when Stuart was in charge of the plans, we watched The Perfect Storm. For those of you unfamiliar with the movie, I’ll spoil the plot for you...everyone dies. One of the sorriest Valentine dates a girl has ever had. So this past Valentine’s Day was an improvement. Except for the canopy. Stuart complained that he was trapped in a pale pink cave and he flapped around like a giant moth trying to escape its confines so he could get ready for work the next morning. It’s a good, laughing memory.

The seasons have spun from fall to winter to spring and today, finally, I write for Stuart. The birds call to one another and court at the feeder outside my kitchen window. A male cardinal stands on a hill of sunflower seeds. He scoops up a seed and gallantly feeds his female counterpart. “Here babe. Try this tasty morsel.” Makes me weak in the knees. The tenderness between these two lovebirds is my favorite part of spring. I read up on them expecting to find that the male cardinal stuck around long enough for a one-night stand and then was on his merry way. Instead, I learned that the bright red bird stays. He feeds his babies. He and his wife divide the family chores. He is faithful and dependable. Just like Stuart.

Faithfulness. We've been married long enough to know that it's easy to be deceived. We've seen the marriages of good friends torn asunder. Friends who have bought into the lie that the arms of another might provide the happiness, the romance they are seeking. Friends who have given up or given in instead of hanging on through the tough times, the stretches of boredom.

Once, not too long ago, logistics and distance demanded that Stuart leave us at home to attend the wedding of his last bachelor friend. He spent the weekend with other husbands in the same predicament. Stuart lost his wedding band a few weeks after we were married and we have not replaced it due to the almost certain possibility that he would lose it again. So he went off to the wedding, and the revelry, with a hand that expressed singleness but he wore his family around his heart and he was not tempted to pretend to be what he isn't. His married companions with their golden reminders on their ring fingers had no such qualms.

Once, we went together to a wedding. A second wedding for the groom. This second marriage to a woman who did not smile on her wedding day. At the reception we sat next to an friend who did not bring his wife but a new girlfriend. I nursed my fourth infant and danced with my husband on that sunny New England autumn afternoon and felt like a bride for I knew I was loved and my husband trustworthy.

Today our culture teaches that happiness is god and everything that gets in the way of personal fulfillment should be sacrificed on the altar of selfishness. My children and I will not find ourselves upon that altar for my Stuart is faithful and dependable and selfless. And it makes me weak in the knees to be married to such a man.