krikketgirl: (Stairway)
I've been thinking a lot about Deuteronomy 6:10-12 lately. It reads:

So it shall be, when the LORD your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, 11 houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant—when you have eaten and are full—then beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

I've been thinking about it because we have been so blessed by so many people in the move from Indianapolis to Cincinnati, and truthfully even before then. There is so much furniture that we did not buy, but instead inherited or were given by family or friends. Our goods were transferred from place to place not primarily by us, but by so many willing hands--even people we hadn't met before they showed up to help lug our boxes. The cherry tomatoes we are beginning to enjoy are from a plant that we did not purchase, plant, or mulch; we did not weed or add good soil to the bed it lives in. All of that tending--and all of the other gardening around the house--was given to us from the goodness of a dear friend's heart. Many of the rooms that have been painted in the house were painted without my having raised a hand to do it, because I have been blessed with kind family and friends who came and painted as gifts to us.

This home is so precious to me, and I am so thankful for it. But I have to remain constantly in remembrance that it is not because of me or Chris that it is so nicely appointed. Instead, it is thanks to people whose hearts were moved by God to provide for us. It becomes, then, my responsibility to remember and to use these gifts not for my own benefit, but to give back to God and to my brothers and sisters.

Stories

Aug. 3rd, 2010 07:31 am
krikketgirl: (Women Write)
I don't think of myself primarily as a writer, but primarily as a storyteller. I tend to see a book as a collection of pieces of a story, stirred together; and what is a life but one story after another? And I do think that the adage is true: every person has a story to tell. More--I think we all have stories we tell, stories about ourselves, stories about other people, stories we tell ourselves, stories we tell the world.

Not all of these stories are made up, of course. To get at what I mean, let me use myself as an example. I tell stories. Sometimes, I tell made-up stories about other people, and I call those stories "fiction" and write them in books. When I tell those stories, I have a point, a message, something for you to take away--and I use the story to make you understand.

Sometimes, I tell true stories, usually stories about myself. Most often, those stories have a point, too, something I want you to understand. The difference (other than the fiction/nonfiction aspect) is that the stories I tell about real things are often encapsulated: short ways of expressing the way things are, in a small and personal form.

Oh, they may have a lot of detail. There may be color and dialect. They may take a few minutes to tell. But that story is communicating something big in a small, compact form. Over time, some aspects of my life have become a series of stories, almost as though they're labeled in boxes in my head. "The Story of Meeting Chris." "The Story of Getting My Job." "The Story of Reading Fast." "The Story of How I Lived in a Bus." "The Story of Why I Fear Dinner Parties."

These are all a part of me, and through repetition, they become more a part of me. Of course, I tell stories to my children, too. "The Story of Why You Should Be Thankful." "The Story of Why the Youngest Boy is So Cuddly." "The Story of How I Won't Come Clean House For You When You're 25, So Get Busy and Clean Your Room." "The Story of How Sometimes People Are Ridiculous." "The Story of 'I'd Rather You Be Kind Than Get Good Grades, But Both Would Be Nice as Well.'"

My stories about myself--the ones I tell others--shape me, but mostly communicate to others who I am, how I got to be this way, and (hopefully) how we're alike, under the skin. My stories about the kids shape them, and that is staggering. And there is yet another category of stories: the stories I tell myself that no one else ever hears, at least directly. "The Story of I'm Worried Because I Worry So Much, But if I Don't Worry, Doesn't That Mean I Don't Care?" "The Story of I'm Not Really Sure What I'm Doing." "The Story of Why Is Life So HAAAAAAAAARD? Whine whine whine." "The Story of I Have Such a Wonderful Life, and I Don't Deserve It."

Those stories shape me and how I interact with the world. Some stories are on automatic pilot--especially stories about how hard life is or my self-perceived inadequacies. Those stories need no help to be repeated over and over. But the thing is that a number of those stories are fictional--they're made up. Or maybe they once were true, and now are not. All fiction contains a germ of truth, but even I know that a lot of those silent stories are just fabrications. What's harder is to counteract those stories with true stories. It's harder to tell myself the story of "Buck Up and Things Will Look Better" or "Anyone's Allowed to Have a Bad Day" or "Get Over Yourself Already, Katherine" or "You're Doing Fine, Just Keep Going."

What I hope, of course, is that over time those stories will supplant the old ones. I hope, too, that the stories I tell my kids will be stories that will become ingrained in a good way--like the story of "No Matter How Awful You Behave Sometimes, You're My Favorite Oldest Boy In All the World." Or "You Did Your Very Best, and I Am Proud of You."

What stories are you telling yourself? What stories are you telling others? Are they true stories? Stories you need to update? Stories you need to toss?
krikketgirl: (Clean Dirt)
Life is full of annoyances large and small. Sometimes, these annoyances come seemingly unbidden: we were walking along, making good time, following the signs, and then WHAM! Suddenly, we're in the middle of nowhere, the map seems to be completely wrong, and the GPS coordinates just say, "You're in the middle of a forest. Proceed to the nearest road." What happened?

Something similar happened to us while we were in Alaska. In our apparent repeated attempts to prove that we are completely out of shape, we had decided to hike up this mountain at the edge of Skagway. Now, we're used to park trails that are clearly marked, so initially we thought we needn't bother with a trail map. I wavered and grabbed one at the last minute--why not? So we were on our way.

The first part of the hike was miserable. It was up a steep "unmaintained road," with rocks jutting out of loose dirt. In the middle of the road, there was loose fill of rocks and dirt that was treacherous--it might hold your foot, you might slide. So we hiked and hiked, thinking that surely it would get better soon. And eventually, it did level off and enter the forested part of the slope.

With the first stretch having been more difficult than we had thought, we decided that we wanted to take a right-hand turn onto a trail that would lead us around a lake and then back to town, rather than taking the left-hand trail and walking up to a lake that was another mile away. Accordingly, we came to what seemed to be a fork in the road, although there was not clear signage. We looked at the trails. We looked at our map. This looked like the place, so we turned to the right.

After walking for quite some ways, I mentioned that this trail--while as wide and flat as the other--didn't seem so well maintained...and it didn't seem to quite match up with what we expected. Further on, a small tree had fallen across the trail and hadn't been removed, and this seemed to be a sign that this--which was supposed to be a maintained trail--wasn't maintained at all. After another examination of the map, we decided to press on just a little further, and then turn around if we didn't come to a landmark soon.

Just then, a young blond woman came from up ahead and panted, "You don't want to go down that trail...there's a great view, but it's a dead end! The trail doesn't go on." We walked down to where she had been, and she was correct: a spectacular view of the town, but no trail. So we retraced our steps and heard her story.

She had spent the day at the lake we were trying to get to, and when she left had had been uncertain of how to get back to town. She had followed the directions another hiker had given her. Only somehow she had lost her way, and had now been walking for some time, trying to figure out how to get back to town. She was hot and tired and lost, and seemed glad of company at last.

We finally figured out that the trail we had been on was not an official trail, though a poorly-drawn map and inadequate signage had led us astray. We found our way to the lake after quite a walk, and then she realized where she had made her initial wrong turn; it had been back at the lake itself, so she had been on the wrong trail for a long time, headed in the wrong direction.

We found our way back to town, laughing together at mutual stories of making wrong turns. As we parted, she said, "Thank you so much for coming along. I would have found my way back eventually, but I would have been crying and scared. I was so glad to hear you come down that trail."

And that's my point. Sometimes, we're in the wrong place through no real fault of our own...and sometimes, the reason we're there is so that we can help someone else find the trail out.
krikketgirl: (Hello?)
Since my bathroom has been undergoing remodeling (pictures soon, promise!), I've been thinking a good deal about bathrooms lately. But this is not something that is entirely new to me. The home bathroom has changed from a "necessary"--hidden away, only used as needed--to a status-symbol room, potentially equipped with all kinds of expensive gadgets and luxuries. I was staggered by the amount of money that could be poured into just a fairly basic full bathroom.

One place where the bathroom remains more of a "necessary" is in public places. I have to confess that, over the past few years, I have begun to judge places by their public bathrooms. Now, if I go into a gas station, I expect pretty basic amenities, and I'm pretty happy if they're moderately clean and everything is in working order. My expectations of what a gas station restroom should be are usually met.

However, I find that more often than not, restrooms are an afterthought in even nicer eating establishments and public spaces (grocery stores and the like). Now, I'm thrilled that groceries have moved to having public restrooms more available--I can remember when I was young and we had to wend our way through stockrooms and employee lounges to a secret location in order to use the restroom. Still, it seems as though some effort could be put into making these places nice. My local grocery just underwent a massive facelift a year or so ago--everything was refurbished, cleaned up, rearranged...everything except the restrooms. They remain old, basic, and a little rickety.

And it's the same with restaurants. Often, it seems as though restrooms are wedged into any little space that is left over, and then never looked at again. The rest of the place may look spectacular: clean, bright, decorated with great taste and apparent expense. And then one trips off to the ladies' room and discovers crooked tile, bare walls, slapped-on paint, a soap dispenser that doesn't dispense, and an air freshener scent more pungent than Limburger. My guess is that such places gamble that many patrons won't see the restroom, so it's not a big deal if the few who do are unimpressed.

It makes me wonder, though, what the "necessaries" are in my heart, if you will. What are the hidden rooms that I don't pay much attention to because no one ever sees them? What are the places that are run-down and seedy in my life? What are the areas that I know I need to clean up, but I don't feel much pressure because, well, no one sees them. I don't have to worry about it.

Think about it this way: there's lots of pressure to conform to standards of, say, weight. Our society obligingly pressures us to lose weight, to eat healthy, to take those pounds off (albeit this advice is often in the same magazines that then feature a recipe for making a cake out of doughnuts and ice cream). And one's body is really obvious: everyone can see its general outline. People judge and we know they judge.

Likewise, there are some sinful ways that are evident and obvious. Theft. Lying. Adultery. Oh, they may stay hidden for a while, but they will out. But what about all those hidden sins? What about pride? Haughtiness? Judgmentalism? Favoritism? Insincerity? Oh, they're so much harder to weed out. Because just like a restaurant restroom, those things are often sins of my own heart, more or less indetectible to the outside eye. But they're wrong no less than the obvious ones are wrong.

To be sincere, what's in my most hidden rooms should match what's in the public ones.

Every Day

Jun. 30th, 2010 10:29 am
krikketgirl: (Carnation Lily)
Reading this yesterday really made me think. If you click through, this brief couple of paragraphs talks about the "Random Acts of Kindness" and then posits that kindness should not be random or once a week/month/year, but every day. It also put me in mind of a quote by Honore de Balzac, who wrote, "It is easier to be a lover than a husband for the simple reason that it is more difficult to be witty every day than to say pretty things from time to time."

It is far easier to do a good deed from time to time--when we feel up to it, when we are having a good day and feeling amicable toward our fellow man--than it is to embrace doing good every day, whether we feel like it or not. It is easier to write a check for a charity every now and again than it is to live charitably--to search out what is best in those around us, and attempt to ameliorate their lot in whatever way we may.

I wonder whether the attention that occasional good deeds gets is reinforcing the idea that kindness, goodness, and just plain niceness are too much to be expected for every day. So we draw attention to the random and the rare, and fail to acknowledge that it is the every day niceness that makes our world a better place to be in. If I have one coworker who is cranky with me every day except once a week, and another coworker who is pleasant to be with every day, which will help me the most? Which will go the farthest in restoring my heart when I am tired and feeling alone?

Let us embrace kindness--not once in a while, in a grand gesture, but every day. Kindness to the cashier who rings up the wrong total. Kindness to the husband who didn't even notice how hard we worked to get all the laundry done. Kindness to the child whose bedroom is a pigsty. Kindness to the friend who forgot our birthday. Kindness to the workman who was late. Kindness to the customer on the phone who was impatient. No, these kindnesses may not change the world. They may, indeed, go completely unnoticed by the recipient. But what they will change is us--our hearts, our minds, our ways of being. And that is what will really change the world.

Vulnerable

Jun. 24th, 2010 09:24 am
krikketgirl: (Advice)
I had the following interchange with [livejournal.com profile] jeffholtonon Twitter, where he tweeted, "Sharing our failures is a favor to others to help remove some of the guilt/stress over imperfection, no?"

My response was, "I think it can be...but it has to be used wisely and appropriately, lest it delve into fishing for reassurance."

And he responded with a challenge: "Fair point! I look forward to your post about personal rules for "wise and appropriate" application."


I'm big on shortening the distance between you and me. You've heard me talk about the "Me, too!" moment that I strive for in connecting with other people; it isn't until we understand our commonalities that we can explore--in any meaningful sense--our differences. Until we arrive at some kind of mutual understanding, then disagreement is simply defensive posturing, walls between you and I. Once we've arrived at understanding, we can then seek understanding based on our knowledge that we are both intelligent, capable, human beings who are trying very hard to walk a meaningful path through this world of ours.

The idea of vulnerability is one I come back to time and again when it comes to blogging. This isn't a blog with a specific purpose; I share, I expound, I try to enlighten, I do all kinds of things. And something that has to be asked is what, then, is appropriate for this space? If I can write anything I want to, what is worth writing? Coming back to the idea of connection, if I seek a deep connection then I must be willing to be real. There must be no material difference between the "me" that is here, on screen, represented in writing and the "me" that you might meet for coffee between flights--or, for that matter, the "me" you might fly across the country to visit.

What does that mean, in terms of vulnerability? It means that I try to be fairly spin-free. This isn't an advertising agency for Krikket Brand Dish Soap. It's a real person written into words on a page, and if I am to be honest then I must be honest in showing both happy and sad, challenge and victory. To show less is to gloss over the uncomfortable parts of life; it has been my experience that it is in sharing the uncomfortable places that deeper relationships can take root.

There is a danger, however, and this brings me to the idea of motivation and purpose. My purpose, if you will, is to communicate that I am a real person, with hopes and dreams and fears and struggles that are similar in some ways to yours. Sometimes, I am seeking support. Sometimes, I am trying to offer support by saying, "You're not alone." But I must always be careful of my motivation. It is all too easy to start reporting every doubt, every fear, every worry, every weakness, in the hopes that all of you will comment and tell me how great I am, or how unfair the situation is, or take away some of my guilty feeling at having tried and fallen short once again.

Over time, left unchecked, that can become habit. I can begin putting myself down to you, in the hopes that you will take pity and raise me back up. It's a grab for attention, no more. And I want so much more than attention. That kind of attention, after all, lasts only until you are looking somewhere else. No, what I want is to become a part of your heart. I want to show you how life looks to me, and I want to see how life looks to you. I want to engage in the kind of communication that knots us together and changes our lives in ways large and small. I can't do that when I am engaged in fishing for your reassurance and compliments.

So how do I balance those? What are my rules?

#1: I try to avoid pointless whining (or, at least, when I am whining, to label it as such).
#2: Wherever possible, I try to post about the not-so-good along with the lessons I'm learning from the not-so-good.
#3: I think, "What kind of response would I be wanting from this?" If it's only sympathy or reassurance, I think very carefully before writing it out. Is it the kind of thing that will resonate? Or is it a moment's anger or despair that I will regret tomorrow?
#4: I try to remember that just because it crosses my mind doesn't mean it needs to cross the keyboard. Just like toddlers, we all need to have a few things that are ours and ours alone, that we choose not to share. We all have our petty, irritable, frustrated moments. Sometimes, it is right to share, and sometimes it is not.

Audience Participation: Your rules of engagement?

Clothing

Jun. 14th, 2010 08:30 am
krikketgirl: (Forces)
In several places of the New Testament, Christians are told to "put on" something, or to "clothe" themselves with something (as th NIV tends to translate it). I find this concept interesting because it hints at a couple of different things.

The verse I was thinking of was Colossians 3:12. Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Now, the first thing that this suggests is that these attributes are things that we will have "put on," because they are not yet inherent to our nature. I think that this is both goad and comfort. Babies don't enter the world clothed; it is not the natural way of things. Left to ourselves, our natural bent is to look out for ourselves first and everything and everyone else, second. We are instructed, though, to put these things on--it will require some effort on our part, then. We are not going to wake up one morning and suddenly feel loving to everyone in all circumstances. Instead, we will put on love and compassion and kindness. We will choose to display those items, even if we have to suffer a bit sometimes for that particular "fashion."

Which leads me to the second idea that I think can be drawn from this: when people meet you, in public, one of the first things they see is your clothing. They may not notice it to the exclusion of all else, but it does tend to register. If we're looking for someone, one of the first things we ask is, "What were they wearing?"

And I think that this is pointing to that same idea. Earlier, in Romans 13:14, we're told to clothe ourselves "with the Lord Jesus Christ." Why? What does that mean? If we're putting on Christ, putting on His behaviors and characteristics, then like our clothing, those will be the first things noticed about us. If you've ever talked to someone who was very kind or very compassionate or very gentle, you know what I mean. Later on, when you try to conjure up that person in your mind, that attribute of their character colored everything you remembered about them. It was the first thing you saw, the first thing you remembered.

Now, my figure is not amazing. When I choose clothing, I am trying to choose things that will make it look less potato-shaped, if you will. And when I put on Christ and His ways, frankly those are layered over something (myself) that is not yet very attractive. I'm working on it, just as one might work on one's figure through diet and exercise. But I rely on those things that I put on to cover my inadequacies and to allow people to see what I am trying to grow into, moment by moment.
krikketgirl: (Bring It)
I was thinking today about how quick we are to promise big things to other people, and yet how hard it is sometimes to perform the smallest services with kindness. If you've ever been in love, for example, there is this welling-up of feeling inside. You feel like (and sometimes you say that) you would do anything for this person. Deserts that need crossing? No problem. Mountains that demand climbing? Of course! Seas to swim? Who cares if they're deep!

Big things, grand things, appeal to our desire to achieve. They appeal to our desire for greatness. If we crossed seas and mountains and deserts, surely then not only would our loved one know how amazing our love is...the world would know!

But when it comes to small things, those are often so much harder to grant. The socks that aren't picked up from the floor. The load of laundry you have to switch to the dryer when it's his turn. The errand you didn't want to run. Hopping out of bed to check that the door is locked. Changing the dirty diaper when you've changed three in a row and she doesn't seem to have noticed how unfair it is.

The small things range across the spectrum of human experience, but they all have one thing in common: they're unsung. No one is going to thank you for dirty sock retrieval. The diaper needs changed and you did it--but there are no heroic odes in your honor for it. I think ultimately that's where the rub lies.

The grand gestures are the ones we choose--and the ones that we expect will be compensated for with attention and appreciation. It's so much harder to do the little things that are just "expected"...and that will be met with no attention at all. And yet, surely, if we love that person, shouldn't we be as willing to do the little stupid things as the big dramatic ones? Shouldn't we be willing to set aside our desire for appreciation in order to perform some small task of love?

It's the same thing with God, really. It's so easy to promise the big things to Him: I'd do anything for you! Go on a mission! Change my lifestyle! Give a big charitable donation! But will you be nice to the person who's cranky? Will you show love to the person who gets on your last nerve? Will you choose kindness over your "rights" and mercy over justice?

Would you really do anything for the one you love?
krikketgirl: (Default)
After posting yesterday about Shaw's quote regarding sincerity, I spent some more time thinking about the subject. What is sincerity? I turned to my good friend Merriam-Webster online to start with:
The definition is: )

I read interesting thoughts yesterday--is sincerity simply emotion versus non-emotion? Not from this definition. Is it speaking one's mind without regard to the consequences? I don't think so. There's a reason, after all, that "brutal honesty" is called "brutal." Whatever one says, brutally honestly, may be sincere...but it is usually unnecessary.

Sincerity, I would posit, does not have to be overly emotional. I think sometimes that when we think 'sincerity,' we think of someone whose heart is on their sleeve, who says too much about everything--as though, if a thought crosses their mind, they must express it, regardless of time or place or appropriateness.

I think that this is an incorrect understanding of sincerity. Sincerity doesn't suggest a constant window into one's thoughts. Instead, sincerity urges that when those thoughts are expressed, they are expresssed without subterfuge, without cover-up, without 'spin'. Sincerity doesn't try to decipher what you want me to say; sincerity says what my opinion actually is. Sincerity doesn't sit on the fence; sincerity is firm about what it believes. What it says today will be the same thing it will say tomorrow; it would say the same thing whether you were a bootblack or a king.

I think that if we look at sincerity from this angle, we do see why Shaw might call sincerity 'dangerous.' There is a reason why politicians tend to hide behind vagueness, right? Why they tend to hedge? Why they say one thing and then do a slightly (or not-so-slightly) different thing once elected? In theory, sitting on the fence and being a little vague will win both sides of an issue over. It is in a politician's interest to please as many people as possible, so as to win the election.

Sincerity, however, is interested in the truth of the matter--the truth as far as one knows it. And there is danger in knowing one's mind and then hewing to that truth. Not everyone will be happy with what one says or does--even if it's the rightest thing in the world. And our human heart, wanting so badly to be liked, hurts when people aren't happy with us. And so insincerity creeps in to give us some sort of cover.

In the end, I think we lose more by using the artificial cover of insincerity. If we are not to our own selves true, then we risk losing any identity at all of our own. We become only reflections of what we think others want us to be, instead of figuring out and displaying who we are inside...we lose who we are inside.

Sincerity is, perhaps, dangerous--but I think insincerity is infinitely more so.
krikketgirl: (Reference)
One year, as a token of thanks for my service in volunteering, the school librarian and clerk gave me a keychain that is shaped like a hand, with a heart inscribed in the middle. I ended up hanging it from my rearview mirror, and every time I look at it I think about taking my heart in my hands and how that applies to volunteering.

In a way, I think of the work I do--whether it's voluntary or paid--as the service equivalent of putting my money where my mouth is. Putting my hands where my heart is, in a way--showing, by my deeds, where my heart is. Letting my work stand for my sentiment.

It's all well and good to think in ideals--I do it myself. But it's another thing to take that belief and hope and put it into practice. I'd like to think that I'm working toward the day when every task my hands undertake is done in love, with my whole heart--when every deed is done, heart in hand.
krikketgirl: (Stairway)
I love the book The Gardener, by Sarah Stewart. In it, a young girl travels from the country to a bakery in the big city. Her father has lost his job during the depression, and she is traveling to live with her uncle, who runs the bakery. Her uncle is taciturn, though not unkind.

The story is told in a series of letters back home, in which Lydia Grace talks about the people she meets, the friends she makes...and the plants that she is nurturing. Lydia Grace brought seeds from home to plant in window boxes, and sets about livening up the bakery.

In time, the store cat shows Lydia Grace a special, secret place: the rooftop of the building where the bakery is located. When she first sets eyes on it, it doesn't look like much--there is a cast-off bathtub and a few other odds and ends. It's tired and cluttered and not very beautiful.

Lydia Grace decides that she will transform this secret place into a beautiful place. Slowly, she works to bring in dirt and plants and makes it into a flowering garden as a surprise for her Uncle Jim, whom she hopes to make smile at least once.

Listening to this story this week reminded me of a conversation that my oldest son and I had about the levels of knowing someone--how, at heart, we are all unknown, but to God. In a sense, then, my heart is a secret place. Oh, out of the abundance of it the mouth speaks, and so everyone can get clues to what is in there--but its totality is not known to anyone, even Chris.

Truth to tell, at times it doesn't look like much. But reading The Gardener makes me wonder: am I adding good things to it? Am I working to transform it from a hot, cluttered space into a place of beauty? Am I carrying out the trash and planting it with good works and hopes and thoughts? Am I working toward that idea of a smile on my Father's face? Or am I just ignoring the stagnation and hoping He won't look?
krikketgirl: (Hello?)
At school, we're watching a biographical film about Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan. We talk about how impossible communication would seem for Helen Keller, and then how her world changed when she could communicate. She was so angry before, and violent, because she had no way to present her ideas and feelings and desires.

I was thinking about this as I sat in our recliner this morning. Our living room is smallish. No matter the furniture we've had, there has always had to be a chair in this particular corner; so while the styles and pieces have changed, I have been sitting in that corner, facing the same direction, for many years (not all at one go, you know). I've sat there with a sick child. I've sat there as I was counting contractions. I've sat and listened, sat and talked, sat and eaten cheesecake, sat and played board games, sat and nursed a cold, sat and studied.

Same place, facing the same direction. For years. No matter what I was doing at the time.

And this made me think about how people have, pretty much, one way of facing the world. One way of approaching whatever life throws at them. Though there is incredible diversity in human thought, emotion, personality, and temperament, each person has basically one specific way in which they handle life.

Some handle it with dignity. They are always dignified and look at things from a dignified viewpoint. Some laugh at life...no matter what, the humor (dark or light) bubbles up. Some grasp at life as if to choke it, aggressive and combative. Some let life run them over and are consistently downtrodden.

Sometimes, when we deal with difficult people, we think of them as though they are choosing to be the way they are. And I'm sure there is some choice involved, sometimes. But then I think about Helen Keller...when she was angry, was she choosing anger? Or was she communicating using the only expression she had? I think about painting: there are so many colors to choose from, but if the only color you know and have had supplied is red, you will only use red. You wouldn't even know to look for blue or green or violet or white. You would use the red and use it with abandon, without thinking.

I think it's helpful to remember that there are a lot of people who have only been given green. Or red. Or yellow. Or bronze. That's all they know about, the only color they've ever used. Sometimes, it's astonishing to them to realize that there might be a rainbow around the corner...but the only way to ever hope to show them that rainbow is to ourselves be aware of what colors we're using, what approach we are taking...and temper it to be able to show love and mercy to those whose palettes are not as advanced in some areas as ours are.

Resonant

Apr. 19th, 2010 07:13 am
krikketgirl: (Smug)
Last night, we were attending a charity auction to support the United Church of God's "Good Works" program. The proceeds of the auction went to sponsor the education of children in east Africa, and it was a wonderful evening. Along with the auction, we were entertained by students of the church's Ambassador Bible Center.

It was during one of these--a song accomanied by piano--that I noticed that the snare drum up in the stage area was vibrating with the sound coming from the piano. Though the two instruments were separated by a little distance, they were close enough that the music from one moved the other to sound as well.

At first, I only thought of the logistics of musical instruments, of unintentional accompaniment that would have benefited from a little more space between drum and piano. But then, I thought about human resonance and how sensitive we are to the things we are near. What are the things in my environment that vibrate my heart and my emotions, that resonate in my actions?

I find it true that we will in some way hum along with whatever "tune" we are nearest. When I had a close friend who used shocking language, for example, it was very hard not to think in those words myself. Those who are in perpetual bad moods pull my mood to the flat side, too. The only way to make sure that I stay on my chosen pitch is to pull myself closer to the things and the people that are in tune with the things that I profess to hold dear.

And of course, for me, that has to start with God. Am I drawing closer to Him? Am I setting myself free to sing the song that He would give me? Or am I belting out something else and edging away, uncomfortable with the resonance?

Jealous

Apr. 11th, 2010 10:21 pm
krikketgirl: (Haughty)
When I first met my husband, we were visiting an area in which neither of us lived. At the end of three days, we each headed home to our own towns; mine was Green River, Wyoming. His was Indianapolis, IN.

I remember very clearly the pangs of being separated by geography from one whom I adored. I would think, "I wonder what he is doing now. I hope he's well." But secretly, I would hope he wasn't too happy without me, as I longed so much to be with him. I had fun without him there, but I knew how much more fun everything would be if we were together.

I was jealous of people who got to see him every day. I was jealous of the activities he pursued while we were far apart. It wasn't an angry jealousy, a jealousy that demanded that he should do nothing but sit at home, pining and writing letters (though, well, I didn't mind when he was pining and writing letters, because hello! Letters from my guy!). It was a jealousy that hoped he would remember me, that the people he was with wouldn't distract him from me completely, that he would still, somewhere, be thinking of me--because I thought of him.

Confession: I'm still jealous over him. We've been married for fifteen years (well, come July). Still, when we are apart, I always hope he's having fun--but not too much fun. It delights me when he calls during the day, or brings home some little something, or sends me an e-mail...it tells me that I am not forgotten, that even if I am temporarily eclipsed by something important, he still thinks of me and loves me more than almost anything.

Today, I was thinking about God and His jealousy. I wonder whether He is the same way over my heart. Does He wish that I would remember Him more often? Does He know that I need time to nap or play or be silly, but hope that underneath, I will remember Him and not tarry too long? Do the times I remember Him--the Sabbaths, the prayers, the hymns--do they delight Him?

Awkward

Mar. 30th, 2010 12:38 pm
krikketgirl: (Default)
There are some things in life that you just can't do gracefully.
  • Putting a heavy pan in the oven.

  • Eating a pear.

  • Recovering from a public face-plant.

  • Confessing that you like-like someone.

  • Washing someone's feet.


Every year, as part of our Passover service, that latter happens during the service. And it's a blend of beautiful (beautiful attitudes, beautiful women, beautiful unity) and, well, awkward. There's no graceful way to arrange all the splashing and water and washtubs and towels and feet.

And that is part of the beauty. When we take a moment, there in the quiet, and realize that we are all performing this awkward task, it takes the heat off of us to show off. There's no need to prove how "together" we are, because everyone is at the same level, everyone is doing the same thing with the same clumsiness. And for a blessed moment, we don't have to think about ourselves.

In Edward Brooks' Freddy and the Popinjay, Freddy the pig is trying to get all of his fellow animals to abandon a certain project by using a little reverse psychology. First, he announces that he needs volunteers for a special mission. Having gotten their attention, he gives a speech about how dangerous the mission will be, that those who volunteer will be putting their lives at stake; they will almost certainly be badly injured, and they may even be killed.

This doesn't dampen the animals' enthusiasm, however, so Freddy moves to his second tack: he tells them that those who volunteer for the mission will not be called heroes. In fact, he says, to undertake this mission will mean that they will be derided as fools. They will look stupid, and other animals will make fun of them.

In a matter of moments, the barn is completely empty.

It's only a kids' novel, after all, but I think that Brooks hit upon a valid principle: many of us would rather do anything, have anything befall us, than look stupid or be called foolish. We sometimes hang back from trying new things or acting on our beliefs because we'd rather look cool and calm and not risk looking awkward.

And I'd be willing to bet that most of us are being constantly consumed by this worry. Which means that most of us aren't even noticing whether other people are awkward, because we're so embarassed by ourselves. So here we all are, wandering around worrying about what other people are thinking, and they're not thinking of us at all.

I think that it is wise to remember that we are all awkward, pretty much all the time. And the really great thing is when someone sees us in all our awkwardness, all of our clumsiness, and loves us.

Here's to mercy, and grace...and awkwardness.
krikketgirl: (Kat Sparkle)
I was reading John 1 today, and I had forgotten about the interchange between Jesus and Nathaneal towards the end of the chapter:

43The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, "Follow me."
44Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."

46"Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked.
"Come and see," said Philip.

47When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false."

48"How do you know me?" Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, "I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you."

49Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."

50Jesus said, "You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that." 51He then added, "I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."


Reading it reminded me of the story of Hagar, and how in Genesis 16:13, She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me." That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.

When I was younger, the idea of a God who sees me was not comforting, but threatening: I thought of Him seeing me in my mistakes, displeased and frowning. It is only as I have gotten older that I have been able to understand why this idea of being seen would be anything but scary.

Being married and having children has perhaps been the biggest piece of enlightenment on this. "Seeing" my children means so much more than just monitoring their behavior; it means I see their hopes, their dreams, their fears, their worries. I see their laughter and I see the slump of disappointed shoulders. I see them strive and grow and change. I see their likes and dislikes. I see their love for me and their father, their battle to be independent people and yet to try to please us. I see us working together to be a harmonious, loving people.

The aspect of being married comes into it because Chris is the one person who knows me the most. He has seen me in triumph and despair, in sickness, in health, angry enough to kick a wall and happy enough that I seemed to walk on clouds. And amazingly, this seeing doesn't lessen me in his eyes; instead, he loves me--and in his love for me through all things, I learn to love him through all circumstances...because he sees me, and I see him.

And I think that this is where I wrap back around to Nathaneal and to Hagar. They saw God, they learned to look for Him--but only after He had seen them. They learned to trust Him, because first He sought them out, saw them, and entered their lives. In the same way, I am learning to love Him because first He loved me enough to see me.
krikketgirl: (School Apple)
There's a boy at my school--he's a new kid. He came partway through the semester. And he's just awkward enough that he makes you feel a little awkward, if you know what I mean. I try to be nice to him, because I know how hard it is to start a new school.

He came up to the checkout desk the other day, and he said, "You'll believe me." He went on to tell me a story about why he believes that UFOs are real. But that's not the important part. The important part is the statement, "You'll believe me."

He didn't ask whether I'd believe him. He didn't look at me doubtfully. He walked up to me and made a statement: I would believe what he was going to tell him. Maybe other people wouldn't, he implied, but I would.

It took me aback. It made me think before I said anything after he told me his story. And it touched my heart. I don't know this boy well. I don't think UFOs are real. But he really believed that I would listen, and I would not make fun of his story, and I wouldn't think he was weird. I would believe him.

The more I work at the school, the more I come to understand that children speaking to me--no matter how often they do it, or how trivial the things they tell me--is a gift. Every time they tell me something (okay, something that doesn't involve who cut in line or who had to sit at the 'No Talking' table at lunch), they're believing, like this boy, that I will listen. That I will care. That I will not yell at them, or scold them, or laugh at them, or think they're dumb.

When children invite us into their world, it is a supreme compliment. Somehow, we are judged worthy of coming to where they are. We are not residents--we only visit. We should remember that, and treat these invitations with dignity and grace.

You believe me--don't you?

You See Me

Feb. 6th, 2010 11:07 am
krikketgirl: (School Apple)
I particularly liked our staff meeting yesterday, where the guest speaker spoke about the psychology of students, and particularly of our struggling students. What I connected with the most was his discussion about building relationships with our children. He mentioned that adults tend to view relationships as being about trust, and time, and sharing, et cetera. But he hewed to the view that, for children, it comes down to, "Do you see me?" It's all about the noticing. Seeing that they got a haircut, or glasses, or a new bookbag, or that today's lunch is something that they really like.

As he was talking, I was thinking that what he was saying is not just for kids. I mean, I can certainly remember it mattering most when I was a child. But it still matters now, too.

Not all relationships--even adult relationships--are about the big things, because not all relationships are big relationships. If you view relationships as any time there is a connection between people, you will see that there are hundreds--if not thousands--of relationships in or everyday interactions. They're not equal with one another. Not all of your friends are your best friend. You aren't as close to some coworkers as you are to others. You might interact with your UPS man every day--and thus have a "relationship"--but it's not a RELATIONSHIP.

And yet...we crave notice even from these small interactions, don't we? If I miss services because I am sick, I want people to notice that I wasn't there. I want them to notice when I come back. If I'm not feeling well, I appreciate it when people see that I'm not at my best...and I also appreciate it when someone notices that I'm wearing a sweater that makes my eyes look especially green. Even if I don't know all about someone--even if we're not close friends--I appreciate their notice.

Thinking about this made me remember Hagar, who called God "the One who sees me." Sometimes, I felt that God seeing me was a vindictive sort of thing...Him looking for faults, looking to watch me trip. I bet sometimes the kids at school feel that way about the adults...sometimes, we feel that way about other adults, ourselves. But as I get a bit older, I begin to see why being seen--really seen--would matter. The "One who sees me" isn't looking for my faults...He is looking at me. The whole of my life. Knowing my heart, and knowing its desires. Certainly, He sees me in my pride and my stubbornness...but He also sees me in my sorrow and trial and happiness and grief.

And if I am to become like Him, then wouldn't it behoove me to notice others? I see God in the people who see me. Someone who brings me a cup of coffee. Someone who leaves me a note. Someone who says, "I missed you. Welcome back." In our world today, it is so easy to feel buried beneath a weight of information and happenings. It is so nice to be seen.

Who will you see today? What will you notice? How will you tell them that they matter--that they are worth seeing? Let's not let others escape our notice.

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