Category Archives: Life

Journal-ish entries about my journey through this world

Motherish Musings

My mother-in-law is a wonderful woman.  I am truly thankful to be so blessed with a woman who has loved me from the first time she met me (a good 14 years ago — wow!), who never has criticized any of my actions even when I was making a dumb mistake, who doesn’t interfere in our marriage or demand that we make her the center of our lives.

Keep reading…

Honestly, the only criticism I can make of Mary is that she never fails to show up at my house on those weekends when I am the most stressed.    I”m usually so slam-busy that any housecleaning probably happened during one of Coart’s free periods when he has a chance to run home after lunch.  I am not the best housekeeper on a good day, but things really go to pot when there’s a play going on, or yearbook season, or when I’m trying to grade final exams.   Mary is too kind to comment on my failure to attain that virtue which is “next to godliness” for her visits.

Coart & I started dating in 1995.  Our mothers met only once.  During Thanksgiving of my senior year, my mom had recovered enough from chemo to ride down to Greenville with another lady at church who was coming to campus to visit friends during the holiday. Coart’s mom also had plans to visit campus for turkey day since Coart’s job prevented him from heading home for the long weekend.  For a single night, the planets aligned and our moms had a chance to share a meal.  I have a snapshot somewhere in my photo box of these two remarkable women.  Coart & I have often commented that they would have been very good friends, if they’d been given the chance.

It’s hard, though, to build a relationship with a woman you don’t really know.  Family ties are like that — you’re united by something deeper than the typical foundations for friendship, without regard for interests, geography or life experience.  Still, being a particular woman’s daughter forges a bond that you can’t replicate with any other human being.  I guess that’s why “mother in law” is its own term.   It’s yet another type of loving relationship that exists among humans, in addition to “parental” or “friend” or “mentor/teacher.”

I’d like to know what it’s like to be the friend of your parent and not just their child.  I’ve never had that experience myself, though I caught a fleeting glimpse of the phenomenon with my dad just before I was married.  I know that the parent-child relationship is supposed to grow into something deeper and more meaningful.  I wonder if “empty nesters” find their relationships with their grown children to be as fulfilling as it was to raise them.

My sideline observations of parenting have occasionally pulled me into the deep end of that pool before I was ready and I start drowning in emotions I am not yet experienced enough to handle. I have felt shadows of the empty nest syndrome this year, and it sucks pretty hard.

There’s got to be a better purpose for this [current emotional pickle] than merely driving home the lesson that while I cluelessly skipped off to college without much of a look back, my parents remained beind and let me go.  Dame, I was so totally clueless.  Confident in the steadfast assurance that my parents loved me and supported me, I launched into college life with enthusiasm and joy.  It’s not that I wanted to leave them; I just was so excited about starting life “for real.” (Well, sort of. Remember that I went to Bob Jones. *coughs* haha)

I remember being shocked when I heard that my mom cried as she drove out of Greenville that hot Saturday morning in late August of my freshman year.

It never occurred to me that she would miss me. 

The Gardener vs The Arborist

working with young adults offers ample moments for reflection.  As I work to understand them, I learn a lot about myself, both my current self and the person I was 20 years ago.

I’ve been thinking for a few years now about the nature of friendship. Humans are wired for companionship — Donne was right that ‘no man is an island’; Countee Cullen declared that one man’s grief is another man’s crown of healing.  But sin cuts us off from each other. Friend-making and friend-keeping are fraught with obstacles, false starts, wrong turns, false hopes, and our own mistakes.

I’d like to think that adults have an easier time in the friendship game, but truth is — we don’t.  Our advanced experience gains us the advantage of avoiding a lot of mistakes that young people make; life itself tends to rub off our selfishness and make us a little more palatable to the average human. On the downside, adults rarely have as many opportunities to build strong friendships. Our years of common experience (college) have passed; our time is entirely absorbed with making a living and/or raising a family.

As I wander the world of adolescent hormones and teen relationships, I have noticed one significant difference between their friendships and mine:   Teens garden. Adults prune.

Kids begin tons of relationships, and do so quickly and easily. Friends of convenience (someone to hang out with at social events); friends of proximity (classmates); friends with mutual interests (music, dance, movies, cars); friends with romantic potential (‘ooooh… she’s hott”); friends out of mere circumstance (sat next to them on a bus one time).  They rarely stop to consider whether the friendship they just began is viable, practical, or long-term. It’s like a garden, and every seed is worth planting. You never know what might grow.  Investment in each other — if its even on the radar — isn’t really the point.  Friendships are almost haphazard, though they bear an incredible significance when they do develop.

Adults (as far as I can tell) have all the same types of friends — proximity, convenience, mutual interests, circumstance, whatever — but we lose that gardening optimism. I’m not interested in pursuing every acquaintance for something deeper. Like a careful arborist, I find myself pruning relationships down to the few that seem to be actually growing.  In the rare occasion that someone begins to invest in me as a friend, I take that really seriously. Growing a friendship requires a lot of work but, done well, yields remarkable joy.  Losing a friendship after it’s taken root grieves me — there’s a literal mourning period.  I hate it.

I’m not trying to make any huge deal out of this; just thinking out loud.

I think these contrasts are thrown into sharp light when an adult and a young person try to build a friendship:  Young adults are used to being invested into; it’s what people have been giving them for nearly 20 years. Adults are used to a more even give-and-take, and we prune out the relationships that aren’t growing (by our definitions).

Putting together a gardener and an arborist can provoke a clash of expectations. An experienced person brings a deep well of experience and hard-earned wisdom to the relationship– a ‘bigger’ soul, in a sense (to borrow from Holmes’s idea in “The Chambered Nautilus”). Young people bring enthusiasm and interest.  They enjoy being ‘poured into’ and getting the chance to start giving back in a meaningful friendship, but the well isn’t as deep (either for giving or receiving).

Young people can come across as apathetic and insensitive when they’re merely investigating a different area of their ‘garden’ for a while.  Adults can pour out so much that they drown a teenager. Smothering isn’t loving.

Quadrennial Musings (Reposted from Xanga)

My older posts on WordPress were originally posted on my Xanga blog, which is soon to be defunct.  I’m transferring this one in its entirety because it’s valuable.

~~~~~

Xanga tells me I’ve been here 4 years now.

Funny how that somehow makes me an “old-timer.” Four years represents a mere wink compared to the history of the Roman Empire, the length of my life, or the amount of time it’ll take me to pay off my household debt. *coughs*

I think the occasion merits some retrospection.  I’m a different person than I was 4 years ago.

I came to Xanga in March 2005 because I had found friends here, and because I wanted to connect with my students (who all had blogs at the time). I’m not sure what the recent “demise of Xanga” trend says about the literacy and mature introspection of our nation’s youth. Probably I shouldn’t read too much into that.  haha  Lines of communication shift; the world changes.  Only the brittle refuse to shift with it (though stubbornness andbrittleness are close cousins… and no one disputes my stubborn streak is a mile wide).

anyway….

To be blunt, 2005 turned out to be hell.

I didn’t know that when I sat up late one night during spring break week selecting my background color and fonts and profile picture for my posts. (Everything creative for me happens after midnight.)  Online connectivity and blogging = so exciting!
*insert smileys here*
*insert quiz results here*
*insert nifty protected post here*
*receive lots of comments*
Fun Fun Fun….

I didn’t know God was about to literally dismantle my soul, pull my heart into pieces, rip away a layer of deep-seated self-centeredness (don’t worry, plenty of layers still left to lose), and install a whole new view of life and Grace.

I also didn’t know that I was about to embark on one of the most amazing periods of fellowship with the Lord that I’ve ever experienced.  It was a valley-depths, mountain top experience.
Yes, I realize those terms contradict.  Paradox is a powerful vehicle for Truth. 

And there I was, pinned against the paradox of intense suffering and incredible faith.

I lived in the foot of the throne of grace.  I ate (what little I did eat — *sarcasm* duress is a great weight loss plan*/sarcasm*) as a shadow of partaking of the Real Bread.  Prayer wasn’t something special; it was an ongoing conversation with the Redeemer of the Universe about my little corner of the planet and what needed to be done in it, IMHO.  Kingdom Promises grew to the stature of monuments. Answers to prayer sifted down gently when they were most needed.

It was brutal. And beautiful. And a sea-change.

Everything new tends toward overreaction, and thus I label 2005 as “hell” and “inexperience” and “faith.”  One huge mess. Grace IS messy.

For me, the foundations of relational ministry and grace-based education were born in that crucible.  I emerged from the fires 18 months later emotionally exhausted, ground down, transformed.  Nothing has been the same since.

Life is rather calm these days by comparison. Four years of experience dull the edge of what used to cause ripples… guess that means the next round of divinely appointed learning experiences will ratchet up a notch.  Currently, days fall under “the mundane.” Students are always interesting; classes vary; but the learning curve doesn’t present the same challenge.

Yet in a tiny (very tiny) way, now I can relate to Frodo and Gandalf and the others who returned to the Shire so transformed after their engagement with The Ring and its destruction that they could not ever return to life as normal.  Frodo’s wound ached; he could not find peace in the old ways. Normal life tends to be rather…. disillusioning.

I deeply miss those days of Eden-walks with my God.
Life squeezes out His voice. Without duress, we foolish children wander far from our Father.

Well, maybe it’s not entirely foolishness.  All children grow up to independence.

But there’s something bittersweet about it … the way a 19 year old never throws his arms around his mother’s neck anymore to smother her cheek with kisses like he did when he was 6.  The warmth subsides into a dull glow.

I dunno.  I just know I miss a lot of things about being ‘in the fire.’  Horrible days beget incredible mercies.

Happy 4 years, Xanga.

Reworking our idea of “career”

Back when I was in theology school, they taught us the standard definition of “Providence”: God’s everyday, common activity in the world to accomplish His will, in contrast to the miraculous.

While miracles get most of the spotlight, I think Providence deserves more credit than we usually give it for the everyday outworking of God’s will for our lives.

It’s not really anyone’s fault, but I grew up with a limiting view of vocation and calling. “God’s will” was nebulous, single-minded, all-important, and somewhat elusive.

You were aiming your life at a tiny, tiny hole, and you were asked to do this at the ripe old age of 18 or 21.  Which career? Which major? Which person to date? Which job?

Pressure mounted because it all seemed to rest on you. Yes, God was in charge of your life, but He wasn’t going to come down there to write your major on that college application. So get out the divining rod.

God’s directives for our lives are brilliantly simple and empowering (but not easy):

  • Love God as hard as you can with everything in your being all the time
  • Love your neighbor sacrificially, like you love yourself.
  • Take the Gospel everywhere you go.
  • Give your life to the ministry of reconciliation -spreading the healing effects of the Gospel into every institution, family, nation, industry.

In short, I’m able to work out all 4 of those commands in a variety of ways.

My own gifts and talents lead me toward certain actions or jobs because they fit my interests. I think God is pleased when we serve Him in any number of ways and enjoy Him via life.  And I think God spends most of His energy directing us via the natural course of life events, not by writing us special messages in the sky.  It’s His loving Providence, not the miraculous, that illuminates our pathway.

We need to free our children from the tyranny of the American dream.  The world expects them to know by age 18 what they are good at and what kind of job they’ll do for 40 years.  Really?!

Some kids are lucky enough to know by age 12 what they want to do with their lives.  Great!  They are fortunate.

But a well-educated human being who has developed her talents as well as strengthened her weaknesses will probably find herself sampling a variety of careers throughout life. Our world is too fluid to be otherwise…. and those of us who prepare teens for college or co-eds for life need to remember this.

I educate my students for life, not for their freshman year of college.  The skills of critical reading, sharp thinking, clear communication, organization, resource management and the like — everything our upper school curriculum is crafted to instill in students — are LIFE skills.  To “present every child complete in Christ” is to take the long view of their education, to invest in their humanity.

Image bearers might well end up on an assembly line … but their “productivity” in society does not determine their worth to humanity.

Springtime makes the think of graduation, rightly called “commencement” because our educational founders realized that school is not an end in itself.

We educate children to launch them like arrows into the battle of seeing the Kingdom take hold on Earth. Grace-full education polishes the natural grain in a child, buffs out the weaknesses, and sends them forth prepared with far more than intellectual knowledge.

Arrows can be aimed, but in the end they will fly according to the bent their Maker gave them.

You never stop missing your mom.

March 3, 1936 — August 25, 1996

mom 1

I wish I had more pictures of my mom — I’ve got precious few in digital form (only the ones my brother has scanned), and not too many actual prints either. Kinda weird considering how many thousands of photos I have from my high school years … but we weren’t really a snap-happy family.

If you look at her senior picture from high school, we bear a striking resemblance. Most folks, though, see a lot more of my dad in me than her features. The photo I have up is near the end of her life…. wish I could post one from her younger days. 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about losing my parents so quickly after college. I don’t really have anything to say about it; it’s just been on my mind.  I’m old enough now to realize how much my parents sacrificed on my behalf and how predictably self-absorbed I was during my adolescent years. I miss their presence and their wisdom.  There are a lot of things I needed to say….

The Lord has been good to me — He’s provided a number of caring, prudent people a decade or two further down life’s journey who can fill in the gaps when I need parental advice.  I appreciate those folks very much, though I usually don’t tell them that they are much-loved gap-fillers. 

But I’ll be honest — this blows.
I thought it would get easier as I got older. Turns out I just miss my parents even more….probably because I’m becoming more like them.

Post-play scattered thoughts

From my dustbin to yours…. the stuff floating around in my head today.

–Directors are always late to the after-parties.  That’s the biggest downside to directing, I think — we’re usually the last people to leave C108 because we have to make sure everything has been put away, the lights are off, the doors are locked, etc.  

sponsor McGeesI hate missing out on a party, and it honestly sucks to be half an hour late to every post-show celebration.  We arrive well after all the social groupings have claimed their spots and end up on the outer rim of anything interesting.  Plus I’m usually exhausted.  

I think there were like 60 NCS people at McGee’s after Hamlet for the official cast party… Coart & I basically showed up, said hi, ordered a drink, and went home. Wasn’t much point in staying.  I remember being rather disappointed. ….    Oh well.  *shrugs*

–Gartered stockings are far less uncomfortable than pantyhose.
Note that I did not say they are comfortable.  Just less uncomfortable. 
Weird-feeling, too.  

Just thought I’d share. *chuckle*

conrade and borachio–I’ve been really pleased by how well this (adult) cast has worked to get across the meaning of Shakespeare’s lines. They really dug in and got a deep understanding of what’s going on and why in the scenes.  We were short on rehearsal time, so a lot of the “aha!” moments have been coming during actual performances.   Better late than never.  It’s amazing to watch insight flash and then ignite a scene.

Joey commented to me yesterday while watching one of the scenes from the back, “You know, Shakespeare is like the Bible. Every time I watch this, I figure out something new about the lines, and it’s incredible.”   Yup.  One of my main reasons for loving the Bard. 

I love the beauty of his lines.  
It forms an aesthetic within your soul, a thirst for well-spoken English.  Even the comic lines are beautiful in their structure and word choices.  Much Ado is mostly prose, but even then the rhythm of the syllables just sings through the speeches.  

I hope the faculty chooses to do this again sometime.  It was a great experience. 

I’m happy to have my life back (“just” teaching seems SO easy after we close a production!).  
But it’s a good kind of “happy” — that full & satisfied feeling of “a job well done.”