Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Of Sprinklers and When God Says: "NO"

I am 23 months younger than my big sister, and I have lots and lots of memories of things we did together as  children.  One of the earliest memories (I am guessing I was between 2-4) was when both Elisabeth and I looked outside and saw a brilliant sun.  Our conversation went something like this:
girls: "Mommy can we go outside and run through the sprinkler - we already have our swimsuits on!"

mom: "It's really cold outside, so you should probably wait until summer"  (I think it was something like March - in Seattle)

girls: "It can't be cold because we can see the sun!"

mom: "well sometimes you can see the sun and it isn't close enough to be hot outside"

girls: "PLEEEEEASE!  We really want to run through the sprinkler!!!"

mom: "ok. go for it".

So two little girls went running out of the screen door to run through the sprinkler on that sunny day.  I remember so clearly the minute we stepped outside we were shocked by how cold it was!  I think we may have tried to be brave for a couple moments and stood on the patio thinking about our next move - shivering our little behinds off with the spring chill in the air.  Finally, we went back to the door and announced that we decided it was too cold.

I don't remember what Mama said to us after that - I doubt she said: "I told you so".  But it would have served us right.  She knew it was too cold and we would be miserable outside in our swimsuits.  She wasn't in fact trying to be cruel to tell us "no" originally - she was trying to help us make a wise decision that would save us being uncomfortable.  But we didn't care, because in our childish wisdom we definitely knew better.  I mean, how silly can you be Mom - we SEE the sun is shining!

I think sometimes we blame God for things we do in the stubbornness of our own "wisdom" - and then say that He is making us suffer.  In reality He has told us what to do - but we are just so much smarter and go our own way.  Or sometimes we get mad at Him telling us clearly: "NO" to something that we were excited about doing.  We think He's a mean parent - holding us back from the fun of running through the sprinkler. 

Oh, if only we knew. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Life is not fair

When we were just little kids I remember either my siblings or I would often say: "That's not fair" about something, like the fact that our friends got to eat sugar, or that one sibling ended up staying up later on a particular night, or that someone had more toys than us (just your run of the mill selfish kid stuff).  Mama's classic answer every time was: "Life's not fair".  Sounds cruel, yes?  I don't think so.  Because you know what?  Life indeed is not fair in many many ways. 

I find myself on nights like this telling God that life is not fair.  I see people that I love getting hurt, while others' lives seem to be perfect with no pain.  I see children suffering, while others have every blessing you could imagine.  I see people get pregnant on accident, while friends and family of mine struggle with infertility.  I see friends who have longed for years to get married remain single into their late 30s - 40s, while others meet and marry practically before they are out of high school.  I see hard working men get laid off, while others have to turn down multitude of job offers.  ... Holy cow.  Life really is not fair! 

And I hate that I'm a selfish person.  I hate when I find myself comparing my life to others (which I know by the way is stupid on so many levels). And so often I look at my own life and hate the unfairness of it.  I'm after all the one who always wanted children.   And here I am another year older, and it feels like we're no closer to adoption than we were when we first got married.   We spent tonight with a group of friends all of whom are years younger - many of whom are on their 2nd or 3rd child.  And it doesn't feel fair.  And I hate myself for even feeling this way.  I honestly love that God has blessed these girls with these perfectly beautiful babies.  These girls were from a group of high school girls I led in a Bible study when I was a young college student.  I called them "my girls", and I love each one.  And I would be so heart broken if one of them couldn't have children, so I really am overjoyed at how God has blessed them.  But, that selfish part of me just wants to lay down and scream and kick my feet and say: "IT'S NOT FAIR!!!" 

Why does God let life be unfair?  I mean, He's God right?  He could snap his fingers and make everyone have equal blessings and make everything fair.  But you know what?  He knows better.  He didn't, after all, make us all the same.  He also knows that this life isn't all there is for us, He's making our place in heaven more perfect than anything we can imagine here on earth.  And I think that maybe, just maybe, He allows different experiences, different suffering, different joys, different challenges to grow us in ways that are only possible through the pathway of unfairness. 

And you know what else?  There IS part of life that actually is fair.  God offers us all the exact same relationship with Himself - the majestic Creator of the universe.  He promises to hear every single prayer, He promises to be with each of us 100% of our lives, He loves each of us without playing favorites.  He forgives all our sins no matter what that sin is.  He sees us through the blood of Jesus and makes us holy.  He is fair and just and perfect.  And I am so so so in love with the God who would love me so much.  So much that He knows I'll grow more because of the yucky and hard bits of life.  So much that He cares more for my spiritual health than He does for my physical comfort and momentary happiness.  He sees the bigger picture.

I don't need life to be fair.  Because I have a God who is fair with His love.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What Legacy will you leave?

I have one grandparent still living.  The other three plus one step- grandma have gone to be with Jesus years ago.  Lately, all of them have been on my mind and heart.  I find myself weeping over how much I miss them, and remembering the things that made each of them unique and precious to me.  I've also been sitting back and watching my siblings have children, watching as my parents become grandparents, watching how my nieces and nephews interact with my parents - and longing for our children to be part of this family soon.  Here are some of the things that stand out in my memory about my grandparents who have gone before me to heaven:

Grandpa - my mama's dad.  He had a fun and unique sense of humor - always making jokes.  He and my Grandma Edith always came to visit us and never failed to bring a bug box of doughnuts.  He was my first grandparent to pass away and sometimes I feel scared that I will forget the sound of his voice, the way he smiled, the way his eyes twinkled when he joked with my mom.   He loved his children and grandchildren and was always ready with a hug.  My favorite thing he used to do was go to orchards in Eastern Washington and ask the farmers if he could glean the leftover fruit at the end of the season.  Then he would load up his orange Dodge truck and bring boxes and boxes of fresh apples, peaches, tomatoes, cherries, apricots to us.  I remember eating the best apple I have ever had when I was about 11 years old - it was pink inside and deep red outside, and I loved my Grandpa for bringing it to me!  I edited (and produced!) a family newspaper called "The Hagen Herald" when I was about 12 to 14.  Grandpa loved getting his monthly edition and he would send me fun facts and articles that I could use in the paper.  I looked forward to every envelope addressed: "To the editor of the Hagen Herald".  I don't know if I appreciated his individual attention as much as I should have at the time - I was shy and sometimes his jovial joking intimidated me.  But he found a way to reach out to me through encouraging my writing.  I'll always remember his eyes that were perpetually laughing.  I see him when I look at my brother Nathanael - who ended up with Grandpa's eyes.  Grandpa had gone through a lot in his life and made some big mistakes, but I never questioned his belief in God.

Grampy - daddy's dad.  My Grampy was a gentleman.  I always remember him being so gentle and quiet - washing dishes in the kitchen on Christmas Eve.  I remember that once he let me help mow the lawn (with an old fashioned push mower!) - I felt so very proud to be "helping".  My cousin William and I used to put on his big work boots.  I loved seeing his art studio in the basement (the same basement that is now my home!).  I can still see him playing the harmonica his hands and mouth working together perfectly to make the cheerful yet melancholy tunes.  I remember him praying in Norwegian to bless our holiday meals.  I watched him bounce my little sister and brothers on his knee singing "Ride a Little Pony through the town" in Norwegian.  When I was in my mid teens I remember one Christmas Eve I wore a cream floral dress and for some reason I was feeling unsure of myself and self-conscious.  I wanted to be a lovely lady - but that awkward teen thing hit me hard.  As we got ready to leave I went over to the white sofa that Grampy was sitting on and kissed him good-bye.  He took my hands in his and said: "You look pretty tonight", then paused and said: "beautiful".  It's the first time I remember being called beautiful as a young woman, and I think somehow Grampy knew that I wanted to be more grown up than just "pretty".  I know that Grampy believed in God even though he wasn't a deeply religious man.  He knew that Jesus was the way and I think he spent a lot of his last days seeking what he had believed in his youth - as I sang softly to him as he lay dying I saw the peace that only Jesus can bring in his face, and I believe he found what he was looking for.

Grandma - mama's mom.  Grandma lived upstairs from us in the first childhood home that I have clear memories of.  We lived in the basement.  I remember going upstairs and eating sugared cereal (which was taboo in our granola only household ;) ) I loved her children's records and watching things like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with her.  She loved root beer floats and sugar free chocolate.  Once I spent an afternoon visiting her and we made Christmas tree ornaments using foam balls and glittery sequins and pins and ribbon.  She taught me how to cross stitch and I remember her and mama talking about making Easter dresses and my hot pink overalls - I had such wonderful seamstresses in my life!   She loved her grandchildren and I remember looking at her long hallway and seeing pictures us kids had drawn for her - we felt famous being on her wall!  I became her caregiver when she needed someone to be with her as she struggled with memory loss.  Those years were a deep blessing even when it was hard at times.  She had such great stories of her childhood that she shared with me.   She deeply loved music and was always sure to listen to hymns on Sunday.  She and I would watch Ballet and Opera.  Once she fell beside the bed and she wasn't hurt but neither of us could get her back on her feet.  I called 911 and then sat down on the floor beside her and we just laughed and laughed that the firemen were coming to help pick her up.  Living with her was a changing time in my life;  for the first time I was "on my own" living away from my parents.  I enjoyed cooking for her and she always loved what I made.  Grandma had a faith in God that I would call childlike - she knew he loved her and she accepted what He had done for her.  Even though her life held some heart break she had faith.

Grandma Edith - mama's step mother.  For my whole life Grandma Edith belonged with Grandpa.  She was always by his side.  I remember how she would always bring sugar free pink chewing gum and give it to my little sister who loved it.  She was always cheerful yet quiet.  She always seemed like such an adventurer as she traveled with Grandpa and she had a cute little cap that she would wear.  Her hair was pink and I always thought that was pretty cool.  When Grandpa died I felt like I needed to help take care of Grandma Edith and I went and spent a couple weeks with her one summer.  I helped her with the garden and she was so loving to me.  I remember going to the grocery store with her and all the yummy food she had for us to eat!  Grandma Edith and I would write letters and cards back and forth and in those letters we talked about all kinds of things and especially we talked about God.  Her faith was evident in what she wrote.  She was lonely missing my Grandpa - and I was so grieved to have him gone.  I think we comforted each other through those letters and I will always treasure them and her.

All of these grandparents have gone before - and I miss each of them at time so deeply it takes my breath away.  Our time on this earth is fleeting - and I just wonder what those who come after me will remember about my life?  I want to leave a beautiful legacy like my grandparents have left for me.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Lessons from a locked car

I locked myself out of the car the other day and spent several hours in a parking lot (I was borrowing my mama's car).  It was hot and I had already been tired after a long day.  I was ready for a shower and sleep.  But, when I found out that I was locked out I called for help from my brother - and he assured me he would come when he got off work.  Unfortunately, then my cell died and I didn't hear back and didn't know when he was coming.  It was a long and complicated story (we'll just not focus on the fact that the number for roadside assistance was on the window and I didn't see it!) involving running back and forth to a pay phone several times.  I literally sat on the curb by the car for HOURS.  I was in a busy parking lot - and I was shocked that as I sat there many people drove or walked past me yet NOT ONE person stopped to ask if I needed help.  I felt so alone and so helpless. 

Waiting is hard!  I think one reason it is especially hard is that often it's something that is out of our control.  For those of you who are doers like I am, you know how hard it is to know that there is nothing you can DO to make the waiting go faster.  It's just a lesson in trusting.  I had to trust that my brother would indeed come to my rescue (and he did!).   So much of life is like sitting waiting in a hot parking lot.  We may trick ourselves and others into thinking that we have everything under control.  But ultimately, we don't!  We need to be ok with waiting.  Joshua and I were talking about my experience in the parking lot, and he reminded me that a lot of my adult life I've been in a place of limbo.  And I don't like limbo!!!  I want to feel for once like I'm not dangling precariously over a ravine!  But, maybe this life on earth is full of waiting because God knows that in the times of uncertainty and questions we have to depend on Him for our security.  If I could really control what happens in my life maybe I wouldn't feel like I needed Him.  And oh how I need Him! 

The other thing that I couldn't get out of my mind as I sat on that curb was orphans.  I don't know if our Someday Babies are out there already waiting for us or not.  But I know that there are millions of children all over the world who need forever families.  They are waiting and maybe watching other children get picked, and like I noticed in the parking lot - so many times people close their eyes to those in need, driving by without stopping to help.  My heart breaks for children who are loosing hope today - watching people go about their lives without even acknowledging the need.   Sometimes I want to close my eyes because seeing children in need of the most basic things breaks my heart, and it hurts.  I don't know how God will use us to help orphans .. I hope He will let us be parents to some of them.  But I want to do more.  And I want the Church to do more.  We can't keep closing our eyes to the parts of life that are uncomfortable, or that might change our lives if we get involved. 

My brother was my hero that day in the parking lot.  He came as fast as he could and gave me the biggest hug.  At that moment it didn't even matter how long I had been waiting, or how desperate I felt.  Children are waiting for love.  May God make me one who stops to help.