Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Christmas Eve Reflection

Dear Christa—
I’m glad that I’m married to a generous man. So was my mother. I remember her saying once that she was glad that she’d been married to a generous man even if he would bring home “any old drunk to sleep on the couch” in his younger days.
At Walmart on Christmas Eve, Callie and I were perusing the beads when a woman approached Jay about needing money. I don’t know what she said, but I heard Jay’s voice, “If you’re hungry, I’ll buy you a meal.” Then, off they headed toward the Subway near the front of the store with 5-year-old Elliott skipping next to him.
I think it’s easier to be generous these days than when we first began teaching in a Christian school with four little children of our own; although, I did hear once that the most generous people, compared to what they make, are the working poor. I don’t think we were that generous though.
Maybe it was because my mother paid the bills when I was growing up or it was a way to relieve Jay of one more thing to do during the years that he worked so many hours so that I could stay home with the babies, but I’ve always handled our finances, though “handling our finances” mostly has meant making sure the monthly bills get paid.
But, there was a time—many years back—that I began to think that I should not be quite so calculating when it came to special offerings. Jay always would say, “What do you think we can give?” and I would respond with an answer. So, instead, I began to respond with “whatever you think.” It has been interesting that most of the time he says exactly what I would have said, but on occasion, I’ve been a little taken aback, but I’ve always just written the check. Don’t get me wrong; it isn’t that we give away loads of money; we’re very much like everyone else. It was just a perspective shift.
I want to be a generous person. For me, I think being generous is tied into being grateful. We have so much more than what I ever thought we would. And, I’m glad that I’m married to a generous man.
As Elliott and I stood in line to purchase our beads, a box of Texas grapefruit, and various other things we’d tossed in the cart, I said to her: “Did you and grandpa buy that lady some food?” And she replied in her very dramatic Elliott way: “Yes, she was REALLY, REALLY hungry, so we just buy her some food…I’m really hungry too.”

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Perception, or Not

Dear Christa—
I’ve been reading through the Minor Prophets in the Old Testament, and some of those books give fantastic accounts of otherworldly creatures busy about their business here on earth. Honestly, some of it I don’t get at all, but one thing is apparent: there’s a lot going on out there that we don’t see.
At times that’s kind of unsettling to me—that there are likely angelic beings inhabiting space that I’m in that I can’t perceive. Imagine an entire world dramatically alive yet silent to our ears.
And, at times in a way it can only seem like magic when that spiritual world intersects with ours and influences the very place we live.
So, it was just such a time when God, very God, stepped out of the invisible and planted himself in the tiny essence of life, cloaked in humanity’s frame. It’s amazing to think about. But, mostly it’s too easy to regard the incarnation as simply the birth of a baby and to miss the perception that this was not an ordinary child.
I wonder how Mary and Joseph gazed at him that night. New parents always inspect every little inch of that newborn, but surely they were looking for something more, something a little different. As they stared intently at the child, were they looking for…God? Were they looking for something that indicated He was who He is?
Did it surprise them that he simply looked like a baby? And since he just looked so normal, I guess they just swaddled him up and took care of him. And, as days and weeks of caring turned into years, perhaps at times it became hard to perceive that this person was not of this world at all.
And so too, I suppose, we look at a baby in a manger and all we see is a baby; sometimes we see with no perception at all.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Time Is a Gift

Dear Christa—
As we navigated through snow-packed roads and up the hill to deliver Carol’s first grade granddaughter (who, by the way, entertained us with her chatter all the way), we were certain of an online instruction day the next morning. At school we had even put up the assignments for each class, and all we had to do was open the link for students to see.  I’d dragged home a bulging bag of papers, grateful for a day to make some headway on them.

But, what came the day after that online instruction day was quite unexpected. Jay arose, checked the school website and saw that it was a real snow day. No school. No online instruction. An extra day, totally unplanned. He looked at me across the kitchen and commented, “Time is a gift.” And so it is.
In our crazy busy world, it seems that time becomes more and more valuable all the time. And a whole day lay before me. I made cute blue dresses for Flora and Helen’s American Girl dolls, drank a cup of hot chocolate nice and slow, and graded some more of the papers in that bulging bag, knowing that now Christmas break would be paper grading free. (And that is a gift!)
Most of my days are prescribed with little variation: go to work, come home from work, cook supper, grade some papers, go to bed, and start all over tomorrow. But, having an unexpected day had a way of reminding me that time really is a gift. It’s a gift whether I’m making doll clothes or teaching mythology. It’s easy to forget on those day-to-day days that all time is a gift.
So, I am grateful for this reminder on the brink of the busiest time of year that time itself is a gift. It’s the opportunity to find satisfaction and even enjoyment in the routines of life: the commute to work, the picking up toys, the grading of papers.
Time is life, and life is precious whether I’m engrossed in sewing, sunk deep in a Bible study, or cleaning the kitchen. Time is a gift.

Many thanks to my student Janessa who let me borrow her doll. :)