Monthly Archives: May 2010

Life and the Lives of Others

Mmm. I have lots of thoughts. Most go flying around in my head, never to be put down on paper, but regardless I somehow remember a lot of them. Yesterday, for instance, I was driving downtown and passed this park near the side of the road. Sitting on a picnic table bench was a women with her head in her hands. She was doubled over, and a baby stroller stood beside her.  Near the slide stood a man, hands stuffed in his pockets. I glimpsed a little kid running around underneath the monkey bars and swings and other playground stuff children love so much.

Then it was gone. I blinked a few times, and pondered. Was the lady crying? Had she and the man argued? Was she just tired from a day out with her kid in the hot sun? Did she have a headache, or a migraine? Was the man of any relation to the women, and if so, what? Her husband, brother? Or was he a friend? Was he just about to go to her and comfort her in her fatigued state? Whose was the little boy?

I shook my head, wondering why on earth I could make such assumptions and fancy up anything of the sort. Yet I found myself doing the exact thing again, ten minutes later…

It was a man this time, an old man strolling across a bridge over a river. (Embellishing his description just a bit,) he wore a bright red jacket and white shorts, and had on his head one of those old navy blue fishing caps. He walked slowly, and I wondered what had brought him to this point. Was he walking to the grocery store? Was he walking because it was the least humid time of day? (Though it was still quite warm; I couldn’t believe he was wearing that windbreaker.) Was he simply walking and reflecting on the long, fulfilling life God had granted him?

Minutes later I realized what I was doing and turned my attention to flipping through the radio stations. But, I just wonder – am I the only person out there who does something like that? Is it just because I like to write, and ask the most random questions – is it just who I am to ponder strange things as the examples above? Does any one else do that? At those times, I sometimes feel I ought to write a story about them. The people, I mean. The lady holding her head, for instance. It could be a very tragic story – for instance, she could have just received a letter from her long lost love over the ocean, depicting that during his hard life he had found another who was there for him, and that he was sorry, but he would not be returning; or she could have developed a tumor at a young age and never realized it until that very evening, and then she found her whole world crashing down on her. Perhaps that man was her best friend, a man she loved but with whom she could never spend the rest of her life because her ailment would soon take that precious gift from her.

Or maybe I’m what my older brother says I am: the definition of Weird. Even so, all of us are weird or odd or strange in our own ways. If we weren’t, this world wouldn’t be the interesting, terrible, confusing, horrible, laughable, astonishing, lively place it is.


Precious Moments

There are many things in life that are universally accepted as wonderful. Getting one’s hair brushed or stroked, for instance. Holding a newborn baby in one’s arms, staring down at God’s special tiny blessing. Watching a favorite movie with one’s friends. Rushing through the ocean’s waves at the beach while the sun sets in the background. (Sadly, I have never experienced that last one, though if it’s in my power I shall do so before two years pass!) But one thing that people rarely stick in that category is babysitting. Most probably see it as a paying job, and that’s it. No need to play with the kids, just make sure they’re staying out of trouble and not about to burn the house down. However, a much better way of looking at babysitting is as an opportunity to bless the little children who are put in your care.

I am always thankful for babysitting jobs, and even more so when they’re consecutively once a week. Not because I can’t survive without some money now and then, but because the kids I watch are such little blessings. Take Sunday nights, for instance. My older sister and I used to have babysitting jobs every Sunday evening that lasted two years, until the parents finished their study. Then we found ourselves only babysitting barely once a week.

Then, recently we got asked to babysit for a church group every week. I found out that apparently Abbie and I only watch kids 4 and younger; anyone older simply stays with their parents. That matters little though; not that I mean to play the favoritism card, but I’ve always loved the smaller ones more. Their eyes are so bright, their chubby little arms wave frantically, their short legs carry them everywhere, and I could survive on their dazzling smiles alone.

The first week I unearthed an astronomical discovery that presented to Abbie and me twenty to thirty minutes of semi-calmness: the children love painting. The watercolor paints I dug up in a child-proof locked cabinet wasn’t quite enough for the four of them. Not to mention there were only two brushes. I mentally awarded them that week with the Most Patient Young Children I Have Ever Known award.

The next week, I came in the nursery swinging my crafts bag on my arm. I was ready… well, almost. When the kids stampeded into the room demanding the right to know if we were going to paint, I realized I should have brought newspaper to spread across the floor so we wouldn’t have to contend with the tiny wooden table. So just last night, I did. Bring the newspaper, I mean. I set it all out, layered a bit near the middle, along with two styrofoam cups for the water, and my own 6 brushes and 5 sets of watercolor paints.

Babysitting may get tiring, especially when you’re tired, or sore for any reason, or you just don’t feel like “getting down and dirty” with the kids. But oh my goodness gracious, with the mindset of “It is what you make of it” – babysitting is almost like an escape for me. I get to roughhouse with them on the floor, get paint all over my arms (and sometimes on my legs) that matches their own tell-tale marks of a little artist, and yell with them as we capture and tickle-torture one of our company.

A couple weeks ago I was emptying the soaked watercolor set of the gallons of water the kids had dumped into it (unknowingly and without caring, of course; the amount of water didn’t change the fact that the paint still showed up on their paper) in the sink in the bathroom. It was either tiny, fair-haired Emmy or rambunctious, brown-eyed Cash who ran up behind me, peered over the sink, and exclaimed over the array of rainbow colors that slithered and dripped down to the drain. Emmy or Cash hurriedly called to his/her fellow friends to “Huhwee! Huhwee and wook at dis!” before the colors disappeared underneath the water I had turned on to rinse them away.

It was one of the most precious moments I’ve ever experienced while babysitting: the youngsters, crowded around the sink – either peering over shoulders or pulling themselves up until their noses stick on top of the side – staring and laughing over the little thing that was happening. How much we take for granted as we grow out of our childhoods and into teenagers and adults! We forget to stop and admire the tiny details of life God gave us that make such memorable moments.

True Friendship

“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.” Thus were the words of George Washington, this nation’s first and one of its greatest leaders. Do most people take those words truly to heart? Proverbs 12:26a states that “a righteous man is cautious in friendship.” But are people actually careful about whom they befriend? Some take on the attitude, “Oh! That’s the new rich guy in town. I should have him over for lunch sometime – who knows what good things he awards to those who invite him to dinner!” Doing so would be the opposite of what Luke 14:12 instructs us to do, and would form a friendship about which neither person is serious and committing. This shallow kind of friendship is not right, and it cannot endure. The only lasting, eternal friendship is that which has its roots based in Christ Jesus.

Another bond that does not last is one made by selfish individuals with earthly gain in mind. Proverbs 19:4 reads: Wealth brings many friends, but a poor man’s friends desert him. Too often in this society a rich man will look down on a less fortunate man, only because the former thinks that, since he has more material belongings, he is better than the latter. Similarly, Proverbs 14:20 states: The poor are shunned even by their neighbors, but the rich have many friends. If one is prosperous, he is thought of as a good person who strives for the American Dream – good social status, fame and fortune. People flock around him and feign friendships, looking forward to the benefits they may get. Whereas this century does not think highly of those people who, though deprived of earthly riches, maintain strong friendships with one another.

Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses, proclaims Proverbs 27:6. Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character,” shouts 1 Corinthians 15:33. These verses are better definitions for the word “friendship” than any Webster’s Dictionary could be. True friendship is rooted deeply in Christ; true friendship is laying down one’s life to save another; true friendship never lies or cheats or steals for gain of any kind. True friendship requires love, and Christ presented to us the very meaning of love by dying for us. The Bible story of Jonathan and David is another representation of true friendship, as well as perfect love. Jonathan realized that God intended to make David king over all Israel and, in so doing, depose Jonathan’s father King Saul. Instead of working against God and trying, as his father was, to kill David, Jonathan swore eternal friendship to David, and both stayed true to the oaths they took that bound them to one another. The only thing to be concluded is that any relationship or friendship not rooted in Christ has no firm foundation or meaning.

Touched My Heart

Last night was the first time a child in my sister’s and my care got hurt and had to leave for the hospital. Little Cash was darting around the room, our happy-go-lucky boy whose energy makes up for other five kids who aren’t nearly as lively. We had no way of knowing that his tiny foot would get caught and twisted up in a wooden chair and send him sprawling head-long into one of those long wooden stoves all nurseries had back in the day.

“Oh my goodness!” I exclaimed. Out of habit, I clapped a hand over my mouth. “Abbie, ask him if he’s ok,” I said, because she was situated closer to him than was I. She did, and his reaction was the saddest, most adorable thing from a two- or three-year-old.

Brown eyes wide, his hand clutching his forehead where a cut swelled, he nodded, first slowly then vigorously. “Yes. Yes. Yes.” His voice died down to a whisper by the third “yes,” and then sobs racked his small body. We paged the parent who was always ready in case something happened in the nursery, and the usher brought Cash’s parents. They tried cleaning the cut, but the little boy screamed every time they got the wet paper towel anywhere near. They finally calmed him down after explaining they needed to go to the hospital so a doctor could fix him up, and that they would get him a yummy milkshake afterwards. Poor Cash readily agreed to this, until he realized he’d have to leave the nursery.

“Mommy, Mommy,” he said from his perch in his father’s arms, looking around at the rest of us sitting on the floor in the midst of our various occupations, “Why – why we have to go out?” His parents’ replies almost set off his tears again, but they were out the door a few seconds later.

Cash’s reaction to Abbie’s asking if he was alright hit something inside of me. I’ve often read that guys like to put on tough fronts, when they’re actually soft and sensitive. The authors of those kinds of books are none that I know, so I’ve no idea how reliable they are; and I don’t think any of the true guy friends I have would try to put up tough fronts (then again, I could be totally wrong there). But my first thought, as I sat there staring at the heart-wrenching scene of Cash staring wildly around and insisting he was fine even as the tears welled up and slipped down his tiny cheeks, was, Man, they start putting up that front at a young age!

A little later, as I got out the watercolor paints for the other kids, three- or four-year-old Jenna piped up, “I’m going to paint a picture for Cash.” I was touched by this, and suggested we all paint pictures for him. By the time Abbie and I left, we were assured that five colorful paintings would be in little Cash’s hands before the night ended.

“It is what you make of it”

So I was told by three different people on the same night. Prom night. On April 30th I attended my fifth prom, and none preceding it came close to comparing to the fun I had this time. All five proms I helped plan, but something was different about the fifth. Over the past four years, I suppose I’ve held such great expectations for each prom that when the night actually comes, I feel a huge let-down. I have trouble going with the flow, especially when things don’t turn out the way they were planned.

This year, however, I let go of my expectations. I was running late, but I still showed up. One of the first things my other siblings and I had to do was get our picture taken, but we still got to dance the rest of the night. I made my stomach hurt awful when I consumed a few cheesecake bars, strawberries coated in fresh-flowing, chocolate-fountain chocolate, and some little Rice Krispies treats, but I learned that there’s a reason I haven’t eaten any of the food at all four other proms. I didn’t get to socialize with the friends I don’t get to see often, but I got to say Hi and chat with them a little, even if it was while we were getting on our grooves on the dance floor.

Later that night, after everything was over, I sat and thought it through. To be honest, I had in fact walked in the doors with some expectations, but this time another resolution stuck fast beside them: Whatever comes, I AM going to have fun.

“It is what you make of it.” I love this saying, not only because it made this April 30th the best prom night of my life, but also because I can apply to people, as well.

On this note, I’d like to share that there are a couple people I used to hate. Maybe “hate” is too strong a word – but I greatly disliked them! The funny thing is: those people and I are growing stronger in our close friendship every day! I disliked them probably for several reasons, all superficial: they were pretty (they still are), they talked to people to whom I’d never found it easy to talk (they still do, only now I’m in the conversations, too), and they always seemed to get along with people with whom I’d never found it that easy to get along (they still do, only I’ve somewhat mastered the ability, too).

Looking back, I realize something. “They are who you make of them.” I made myself believe that I should dislike those people because of their looks, their behavior, their relationships with others. My judgments concerning them were by no means open-minded, so I thought they and I could and never would get along.

Throughout the years, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that if I force myself to believe that I can’t be friends with someone, it makes it terribly hard to change my mind and try to befriend them. Maybe this saying would only really mean anything to me because of my personality and who I am, but perhaps it applies to anyone who thinks they dislike a person for some shallow reason or another.

I am not saying that if you whisper, “It is what you make of it. It is what you make of it. It is what you make of it,” twenty-three times during a fantastically dull party, things will magically brighten up. I am not saying that if you think, “They are what I make of them,” you’ll suddenly see them through different eyes which make them out to be wonderful amazing people (although that would be nice!) All I am trying to say is that if you give that boring event or those people of whom you may be jealous an honest chance,  you might just find that that night was the most wonderful of your life, or that person your future best friend.

Beauty from Ashes

God knew before the dawn of time what each and every one of us would look like; He created us as we are for a reason. I know I have absolutely no right to stare at sickly-thin models, glance at myself, and wish anything to have their body. We are like clay in the Lord’s hands, and He molds us and shapes us as best he sees fit. As the clay, I cannot look at the Potter and insist he make me like all those other movie stars and music artists who may go on crash-diets or become anorexic or bulimic just so they look glamorous for the paparazzi.

The Apostle Peter instructs women in one of his letters to the early Christians not to go to great lengths to make themselves beautiful. “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.” In our day and time, this would be translated as: not murdering our hair with the All-New hair products, not covering up our faces in layers of eye shadow and liner, mascara, blush, and lipstick, not stagger into debt because we just have to purchase that killer 300$ pair of  jeans.

The outward adornment is a hard struggle for a lot of girls. Thirteen was the age at which I started wearing “official” make-up: eye shadow and a tad bit of crappy, water-proof mascara. I remember thinking that the older girls just looked so cool in their make-up, so, why couldn’t I? Now, I shake my head at what I must have looked like. I also feel sorry for my mom during all those times I plastered on lip gloss and jammed on headphones to lip-synch to myself in the sun-visor mirror on car rides…

As I’ve grown older, my taste in certain make-up has changed, but the underlying reason for wearing it has not: appearance. It’s all about appearance. That worldly idea stuck so fast in my mind that it got the point to which I found myself carefully applying eye-liner and mascara just for a trip to the grocery store. For serious? Who am I kidding? What’s the point? Who am I trying to impress?

“Always be yourself. The ones who mind don’t matter, and the ones who matter don’t mind.” My true friends will not care if I fail to show up at their house in a stylish pair of boots, nice jeans, dressy blouse, snazzy jacket, perfect hair and airbrushed face. It’s fun to dress nicely sometimes, putting on make-up and doing-up my hair, but I should not be concealing myself behind a false mask. A friend once told me something that struck my fancy, and with little additions of my own it is: “You should only wear what accents the looks God has given you, not to pile it on and hide behind it.” Sometimes we get so caught up in perfecting our looks that we fail to recognize the natural beauty with which God has blessed us, that it doesn’t matter that we look amazing 24/7.

So while I go on jogs, or apply eye-liner, or curl my hair, or eat healthy, I have to keep in mind that I should do all of this for the glory of God and Him alone, not to impress that guy glancing at me from behind those boxes of apples at Wal-Mart, or so that I feel “equal” with all the other girls who seem to be the definition of gorgeous, or for any other ridiculous reason. Though satisfaction about my looks will be a struggle to obtain, I was formed by the hands of Lord God, and I believe He never creates anything without reason or purpose.

Painting Adventure

The paint sat there,tiny pools of red, blue, and a color that looked like green but that Rob assured me was not. I stared at them, excited to dip my fingers through them and smear the colors over my face. Rob did it earlier, and it sounded like fun. Messy fun is my favorite kind.

Once so bedecked, I followed my best friend out the front door, ready for pictures but not for the cool air through which I rushed. But, what is unkind weather compared to making memories? Besides, I wasn’t going to freeze. Though my jeans were rolled up into capri’s, I wore the long-sleeved, slightly tattered paint shirt Rob lent me, with my own shirts underneath. How hard could taking a couple of pictures of my new get-up take?

Actually, not long enough. We’d only been photographing for maybe ten minutes before my mom called, instructing me to call my dad and tell him to pick me up in another ten minutes. Distressed that I’d only spent forty-five minutes with my friend, I dialed my dad’s number anyway. He said he’d be there in six or seven minutes.

Ten minutes later, Rob and I had run into a back bedroom, taking “studio shots” (the sunlight had faded fast, unfortunately) and were now reclining in his living room. I slouched on the floor, rubbing down his dog, Shaina, while Rob sat at the computer. Shaina’s soft, long black hair was still between my fingers when my friend stated, “That’s the longest seven minutes ever…” I fervently agreed, slightly put out that we’d had to cram everything into that small amount of time only to wait for me to leave.

Finally, my dad pulled up. I stood, slipping into my flip-flops and grabbing my jacket and bag. Rob turned to me and said, “Um, aren’t you going to wipe that paint off your face?”

I shook my head, grinning. “Nope.”

“Your parents won’t be mad?” he asked. I informed him my dad wouldn’t care, and neither would my mom if I washed it all off. He shrugged, nonchalant so long as my parents wouldn’t be angry. I gave him a hug before dashing out to where my dad waited in the van. I couldn’t wait to see the look he’d give me. And I wasn’t disappointed.