Thursday, July 30, 2009
Dr. Martin, our pastor when we were first married, used to hit marriage long and hard in his sermons. One of the things he would say, if I remember correctly (which is a caveat I need to make considering how little I remember from that epoch), was that the 7th year of marriage was thought to be a difficult one.
Because Joel’s job will change and they are moving to Germany for 3 years, the close of their 7th year feels like the ending of an era for them. I suppose it became more pronounced when we met Kim at my parents last week to visit shortly and take their dog back to Colorado where he will spend the next 3 years with my canine loving sister. On facebook Joel reflected on the struggles and milestones of their first 7 years that Fritzi had been a part of.
As for me, there was no closure event to mark our 7th year of marriage. I was perceptive enough to note when our children were born, which seems to be the gauge of my 20s. Our 7th year began with Chris being 6 months old and ended with the birth of Melody just 2 weeks later. I don’t recall anything much about our marriage, just that Jay worked an incredible number of hours, and I changed and washed an incredible number of diapers. The only specific thing that stands out that year revolved around a tragedy that our friends experienced; perhaps that’s because it was much larger than Jay, me, or us.
It makes total sense that the 7th year would be a challenge. At 7 years people have lived together long enough to learn most of their mate’s foibles. Work has become just that, work. Then there are diapers, enough disposables to reach the moon and back at least 23 times. Fading are the idyllic visions of adult life. Young love is moving back stage as old love is moving toward the center, as it must.
Earlier this year, because of the twists of Mel’s world, Mom and I were discussing married love. Mom said, “Mel is just thinking of young love. Old love is different.” Old love is birthed through struggles and trials and the dailyness of life that each couple decides to take on together. They are often things not chosen or planned. They are things that are.
Monday, July 27, 2009
When I graduated from college, Jay figured it would take him two years to finish his Master’s. I think that is where the concept of “two years” came from. In two years we would move out West and become teachers.
But, before two years were up, I was pregnant with Joy; and the caveat of teaching, we knew, was that I would have to work as well. So, after Joy was born, it was “two more years” and we’d move out West and begin teaching. But once again, before those years were accomplished, I was expecting, and we stretched—very slowly—two years into ten. Those were often discouraging years.
It wasn’t that we were unhappy. The years of babies are never regained—mirrored in grandparenting somewhat—but never regained. And it wasn’t that we felt “out of God’s will” because we weren’t. But, out upon the horizon, just beyond our reach, beckoned the ideal image of changing lives forever. And it so seemed it would never come.
The spring after Melody was born, Guy and Terry (friends who were co small group leaders with us) insisted that we go off for a weekend. Childless at the time, they packed their bags, came to our house, getting a weekend crash course in insanity.
Jay and I went to an inn isolated in the rolling hills of north Georgia. We played tennis, swam in the pool, and mostly sat in rocking chairs on a wrap around porch, which looked out over serene views of the Great Smokey Mountains. We were reading and editing a book Jay had written, totally engulfed in our own world.
One afternoon, with typed manuscript in tow, we were descending the few steps from the porch when two older ladies passed us. They stopped and inquired, “You two are teachers, aren’t you?” Taken aback, we both blurted, “yes,” having never taught a single day in our lives beyond student teaching, but we were teachers.
Now, after teaching almost 25 years, that memory makes me smile. For there was plenty of time—days, months, and years, stretching out into weariness—if only we had then known. Youth has a way of rushing things: always seeking the next phase, peeking around corners, anxious as a toddler, certain it’s missing something just beyond its fingertips. It is the great myth of youth.
Do not get discouraged in the days you seem to be marking time. The days of each life are numbered, and there are just the right days to accomplish God’s purpose. Live and wait—for when the time is right, you will know it—and that path, too, will open up before you, like the first rose of spring—fresh as the new day it is…
Thursday, July 23, 2009
It seems like there’s always someone in every literature class who just can’t wait to see how a novel ends. So, in the quiet privacy of her room (I say “she” because it’s always a girl.), she flips to the back of the book and reads the ending. I usually give her a hard time, and nothing makes the others madder than for someone who’s read ahead to reveal a crucial element before the rest are there.
Tonight we started a Beth Moore Bible study on the book of Esther. Beth referred often to Esther’s destiny… and ours; but having read Esther several times over the years, the burning question I always wish I knew is— “What happened to her after she saved a whole nation of people from the wicked Haman?”
I’ve read that some think she may have died soon after her story, since her life from that point on falls silent. I don’t know. I suppose if one were to create a blockbuster, the beautiful Esther, shrouded in Persian opulence, would breathe her last in the devoted arms of King Xerxes. To me, that seems too simplistic and not the way life generally turns out. I somehow see her cloistered in a harem, soon forgotten, replaced by another voluptuous form. How hard would it be to fall from queen to harem girl? Now, that’s an Esther who intrigues me. What did she do then? Did she seek the face of the God who had saved her? Or, as the great deed receded farther and farther into the past, did she grow old, regretful, and bitter? We may never know.
Another woman in the Bible whom I would have appreciated more information on is Abigail. It sort of seems that David took her as a wife out of gratitude or obligation. It wasn’t like he really knew her. The foolish Nabal dies, and then comes David to bring her home with him. Have you ever wondered just where in the palace she was the night David called for Bathsheba? A woman mature and wise, what did she know? And did she say anything—or deem it wiser to keep silent?
Women. Women who made a splash on the pages of Scripture, but afterward are never heard from again—living in obscurity—where mostly the rest of us live everyday. I wish I knew how they lived there. People seem to have the capacity to do great deeds when great deeds are required, but most of their lives—and ours—are spent just doing regular things. We cook dinner. We clean house. We haul kids around and feel lucky to check facebook. Often we get to the end of the day and feel like we’ve done nothing, but that is not so. We all have a world we touch, and only eternity will reveal significant deeds that may not have seemed so at the time.
I look forward to our study in Esther and think I’ll learn many valuable lessons because that’s the part of Esther’s life God wanted revealed. I’m not sure how Beth Moore will sum up the end of Esther, but I don’t think skipping to the last chapter will tell me all the things I wish I knew.
Monday, July 20, 2009
—To be the mom of a little one is to be a whole world—
I guess you sort of lose your identity in motherhood in a way. I sometimes thought about that, when I had time to think. As toddlers Joy and Joel were a bit of an attraction in the grocery store (the only place I really went) since they both sported brilliant red hair. Old ladies constantly stopped to chat with them in the grocery cart. Then they always turned to pregnant me and stated emphatically, “Enjoy them. They grow up so fast!” It wasn’t that I didn’t believe them; it’s just that the years from birth to kindergarten seemed so long. And I did enjoy them—everyone.
In many ways they were years I put away myself. I think I spent a lot of years afterwards searching for myself, only to realize one day that I’d always been, and I was just me.
I’ve also come to realize (now that I’m one of those “old ladies”) that the role of motherhood is a most fulfilling one after all—far greater than any class I’ve ever taught or any recognition anyone has ever given me. Beyond the diapers and the endless housework, beyond listening to little ones learning to read, beyond all-day Saturday wrestling tournaments and band concerts and choir concerts await a clean house, pressed clothes in the closet, weddings to people as precious as your very own kids, Sunday dinners (with adult children), and the sound once again of tiny, busy feet.
Of all the things Jay and I might accomplish in our lifetime, the one we’ll always feel most blessed about is our children. I guess when we became one, we really did lose our identities. Then we became 6, then 10, then more. And now, I wouldn’t want to be anyone else but who I am. I am a mom, and to be a mom is to be a whole world.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Marble tile and fabric covered elevator walls—
The faint scent of fresh lilies wafting close to the sofas around the blazing fireplace—
Every room and hall adorned with ornate crown molding—
Chandeliers sparkle in the late afternoon sun, reflected from cascading potted plants—
But my attention is drawn to Carol and Traci’s conversation.
Carol—older than me. Traci, younger. Godly wisdom from an older woman to a younger.
How to fit in the Bible study—
What to let go that doesn’t really matter—
I love watching the passing of wisdom—woman wisdom—falling from one generation to another. I listen for myself—for the reminders I know but don’t do.
For most of my life, I’ve had an older friend—someone a little ways ahead of me on this path of life. They’ve encouraged me where I was, and no doubt often saved my feet from stumbling.
At the Anne Graham Lotz conference, which is why we were at The Broadmoor to begin with, a little lady 80 years old sat at our table during lunch—a widow for 12 years. She chatted with all around her, her sparkling eyes drinking in whomever they rested on. “What you see is what you get!” she snapped regarding herself with infectious warmth. She’d come by herself and was sharing a room with three total strangers. Would I do that when I’m 80? I wouldn’t do that now. I marvel and learn from her example.I miss having an older friend. I need to check in with Carol more often—
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Journal for Christa— (from June 22, 2009)
Didn’t C. S. Lewis say, “Once a Narnian, always a Narnian”? I think you might be able to take the kid out of Colorado, but you just can’t take Colorado out of the kid. Two of our children and their families are coming to Colorado this week. They are so excited, and Colorado never disappoints—unless you happen to arrive during an early or late season blizzard. They’re always so excited to come home to Colorado.
When we lived in Tennessee and would come here to visit Jay’s parents, Jay spent the last two or three days dreading going back. Dan, Jay’s brother, reminded me of him last week as we were up at their cabin doing some maintenance. He kept gazing out the window at the most picturesque scene of the Rockies, willing his mind to set the view permanently for the return trip to South Carolina.
When Melody went to JBU, it only took her 6 short weeks to establish her new college persona as a Colorado mountain woman. Having two older brothers already there probably helped. That fall break, she returned home with a passel of friends from northwest Arkansas and announced that they would camp up at The Craigs on the back side of Pikes Peak. We had planned to take a personal day from school and offered to join them with the camper. Oh no, they would camp in tents—in October, with not much more than light jackets on their backs. When we arrived the next morning to hike The Craigs with them, they were freezing around a small fire and gulping down hot chocolate. In the middle of the night, tents had been abandoned for cars. But in true Colorado fashion, it was hot by midday, and we were looking over vistas too awesome to describe.
Tomorrow Mel will once again return to Colorado, this time with husband Nate and two babies. Later today Chris will arrive with his family. We are all curious how the cousins will interact with each other. We plan to spend a few days at the cabin: fishing, hiking, shooting skeet, eating, laughing, and setting those mountains permanently in our minds, which will beckon them home over and over again.
Once a Coloradoan, always a Coloradoan.
Monday, July 13, 2009
After researching genealogies, Mom says my great, great, great grandmother's sister could have easily populated most of southern Illinois. Then, by Mom marrying into my dad's family, I figure I’m most certainly related, directly or indirectly, to about everyone in the bottom part of the state.
I come from a large extended family, mostly typical of the Midwest. If I’m ever asked to tell something unusual about myself, I share that I have 78 first cousins. My dad's parents had 49 grandchildren, and Grandma couldn’t figure out why none of her children would oblige her request for one more to make an even 50. Mom's side makes up the remainder. Being somewhat in the middle of all that, there were always older cousins to envy, an aunt’s high-heeled shoes to sneak into, and babies to cuddle. A world without cousins is incomprehensible to me. Of course, we were always closer to the ones nearest our age and those who lived around us.
Get-togethers were and are potluck and better than any church potluck fare. Grandma always made peach cobbler, probably because it was my dad’s favorite; but I always thought it was because it was mine. So, after Grandma and Grandpa passed away, Mom procured one of her two cobbler dishes for me. I also loved her homemade dumplings. When I was a young wife, I asked her if I could have her dumpling recipe—to which she responded, “Recipes? Either you know how to cook or you don’t.” Apparently, I didn’t. I’ve also always thought the role of aunts and uncles were simply to like you just the way you are—with a little teasing thrown in now and then.
This week we’ve spent several days up at the cabin with Dan, Jay’s brother, and his wife, Marne’. It seems strange to be here without all of our children—the cousins. Marne’ and I have reminisced a lot about Thanksgiving dinners, New Year’s Eves, and visits to their cabin that our families have enjoyed over the years. Now, miles apart, those cousins keep up with each other on facebook; and Dan and Marne’, too, laugh at Chris’s posted videos, and I chat on occasion with their college girls.
In two weeks most of our children and grandchildren will spend part of their Colorado vacation with Jay and me at the cabin. Even though these four little cousins are all under two, I hope it’s the start of many happy cousin days ahead. And maybe—I’ll just make a peach cobbler.
Friday, July 10, 2009
When people look into my face,
I wonder who they see—
Is it the person of my heart
Or masks made out of clay?
Today, tomorrow and the next—
To hide my weakness and my fears
To please mere vessels made of clay?
I see that I am weak—
And need the Potter’s gentle thumb
To mark this heart in His own way.
So let the masks fall from my face
And let me be just who I am—
To stand before them unashamed
Of what the Potter does with clay.
Deb Borkert ©
A frequent theme in literature is the discrepancy between appearance and reality. Like in literature how rarely do people actually see us for who we are. People look happy when they’re sad; nonchalant while burdened down; somber when nothing is really wrong. We all, to varying degrees, wear a mask. We want people to think better of us than what we really are. We would melt in shame if every thoughtless thought was revealed for all to see.
Then, some struggles are neither necessary nor appropriate to express to every casual acquaintance. Yet, I wonder, how often we purposefully construct a facade, leading others to think we’re someone we aren’t, fooling others and ourselves alike. Perhaps it’s time to peek under that mask and see who’s really under there.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Being one of nearly 30 grandchildren, individual time with Grandma didn’t happen often. I was delighted when Grandma and Grandpa moved into town, mainly because I didn’t care for the outside facilities on the farm. “Town” included an uptown about seven blocks away. Uptowns are far better than downtowns because the return walk is downhill. Wandering through the main street of the small Midwestern town was every junior higher’s dream, and I approached uptown with the same enthusiasm as Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby would have taken in Manhattan’s boutiques.
Uptown consisted of a few blocks including a drug store on the corner, a couple of dress shops, and the Ben Franklin 5 & 10. I could wile away an afternoon examining the display tables at the 5 & 10, deciding how to spend 50 cents or a dollar. On one particular summer afternoon, Grandma had business uptown, and I, alone, accompanied her. After Grandma finished her shopping, she took me to the corner drug store where she bought us five cent Cokes at the soda fountain. I don’t recall what we chatted about, except that I did inform her that a bottle of Coke cost a whole dime “up North.” It saddens me now to drive uptown, framed by empty and desolate display windows that once held such fancy to my young eyes.
Last summer my sisters (Lora and Cheryl), Melody, Callie, and I were visiting Mom in southern Illinois, where so many of our cousins still live. As we talked, our memories drifted back to when Grandpa had died, not long after Lora had graduated from high school. Someone had brought Grandma back to the house and no one else was there except Lora. Our grandparents lived on a fixed income that was rather meager. Grandma was distraught and told Lora she didn’t have anything to wear to the viewing or the funeral, and she didn’t have money or a way to buy anything. Lora responded, “Well, Grandma, I’ve got a car, and I’ve got money in my purse. Let’s go uptown.” And so they did, where Lora bought Grandma two new dresses. Lora hadn’t told anyone, and apparently Grandma hadn’t either. I guess it was their secret.
Anyone in the family would have been happy to buy Grandma’s dresses, but Lora was glad that it was she who had the car and money in her purse. Grandmas do special things for us when we’re little, and sometimes when we’re older, we get to do something back.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
During the dark time, I’ve always thought it was Jay who saved me. I don’t know how he knew how. I don’t know what he thought the night I crumpled to the kitchen floor and sobbed. I don’t know how long I cried, but I do remember thinking something was terribly wrong with me. From that day on, after working nine and ten hour days, he came home and played with the kids, keeping them entertained while I made supper in the kitchen alone. Joy recalls those times of playing “Skin the Cat” as fun. I can’t imagine how tiring it was for Jay. I’ve often thought of how much I appreciated it; but through all these years, it hadn’t occurred to me how selfless it was of him.
People talk much of what it means for a man to be a leader in his home, but there’s always something that it seems to me they leave out, yet I don’t know exactly how to articulate it either. I do know it’s what Jay did and does in a quiet kind of way—
For Jay it’s often been assessing and making adjustments. It’s rarely talking—but doing. It’s being steadfast and reassuring—steady and dependable. It’s a pillar that steadies me.
Friday, July 3, 2009
Reading your email had a tone of haunting familiarity—not that I’ve experienced anything to the extent you have. It has, though, caused me to ponder and search my endless days of overwhelmingness—days that now seem so very far away. We refer to them as my “lost years” because I have so few memories of them, which in some ways is sad because I did intend to enjoy them, and I think in many ways I did.
There was always so much to do, and nothing ever totally done. Now when I do laundry, it often makes me smile—3 or 4 partial loads a week compared to the daily never ending task. I don’t ever remember going to bed and the laundry ever totally done. The laundry weighed on me.
For a few months after Chris was born, we had diaper service. Each week you’d set the diaper pail on the front porch, and later that day a man would come and take away the dirty and leave tiny, snowy white diapers—neatly folded in a large plastic bag. I loved that.
I have no advice for you—other than to assure you that these days will surely unfold, and you will emerge into a new epoch of your life. There will be struggles, but they will be different and in many ways seem easier. Watch and wait during the days that the clock stands still.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
I never really thought of it at the time, but I’ve come to believe that it’s good for people to do things with their hands—something more than wiping snotty noses and rinsing dirty diapers. When I looked at my hands in my twenties, those were the activities I equated with them. Yet, there were other things they did to earn the wrinkles I lament today.
Jay has always said that “necessity is the bean soup of creativity.” And, my partner in poverty and creativity was often my best friend Maxine. Everyone should have such a friend. Maxine is an artist. I am not. But, she gave me inspiration to do things with my hands that I would have never attempted on my own. She babysat the kids so I could go to a ceramics class once a week with Priscilla. Hence, came the Hummel style nativity pieces we carefully put out each Christmas.
Then she decided I needed to learn tole painting, which is really just pseudo-painting that makes you feel talented when it’s actually tracing and technique. Each week Max conducted her painting class with Priscilla, me, and Carl. Carl and Debby had lost a baby right before Mel was born (but that’s a different story). For Carl painting was therapeutic. For me it was another skill to accomplish with woman hands.
We picked strawberries and froze them. Max said to pick the small ones because they are sweeter. Then, we took on canning and planted gardens in Tennessee fertile soil. We cross-stitched and sewed and even cut out and sanded our own wood pieces to paint. Our hands were nimble, strong—and we were young.
As children grew and youth passed, I exchanged wiping noses for grading papers. And one by one the talents of my hands lay dormant—incomplete projects of guilt instead of the one-time pleasures of my hands. But as seasons passed, I found my hands again taking up those projects that had lifted me on wings of creativity during years of daily sameness.
When I was pregnant with Joel, I started crocheting an intricate afghan. I brought it home from the hospital too done to toss and stuffed it in a plastic bag that lay on a shelf for years. The year that Joel was in Iraq, hands more weathered and somewhat stiff took down the bag, and with old yarn old hands meticulously relearned the stitches and passed the evenings, weeks, and months till his return.
One year at the faculty Christmas party, I’d taken a gift I was embroidering for Jay’s mom. Pat, the science teacher, commented, “Debbie, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you without something in your hands. Are they always busy?” I thought it a nice compliment.
Last summer we took a picture of our hands. Callie’s was baby perfect; Mel’s, beautiful; mine, wrinkled; and Mom’s, just old. Maybe the appeal of those photos is the symbol of a woman’s hands—
hands to lift in praise,
hands to fold in prayer--
Hoping you see your hands in a new way this week—