Category Archives: self

Hide and Seek

“I want to play Hide and Seek!”  her melodic baby voice declares.  Her brown eyes sparkle with anticipation.  Her body stands poised, ready to run off at my word. The part of me that wants to answer, “Again?” is quickly quashed, and she runs off giggling as I close my eyes and start to count.

My three-year-old granddaughter, Lacey,  has discovered the game, Hide and Seek.  Like other favorite activities, she asks to play it repeatedly. Her favorite part of the game is being found.  Her eyes widen; her smile broadens. She is thrilled to hear, “I found you!”

Lacey is not particularly good at hiding, so I often pretend I don’t see her at first.  If I do not find her quickly enough, though, she helps me by calling out to me. Sometimes she will even walk up to her seeker, grinning in anticipation of hearing “I found you!”

As she gets older, I am sure my granddaughter will get better at hiding.  She’ll learn to blend in better. She will endure waiting in a solitary hiding spot, and her game strategy will improve. It will become more difficult to find her.  Yet I’m sure she will still want to hear “I found you!”

Sadly, this won’t only be true of playing Hide and Seek.  As she matures, she will hide parts of herself that she fears are not good enough.  She will put up barriers and push people away to protect herself from hurt.  She will become more inhibited and share less of herself.  Yet she will still long to hear, “I found you!”

I know this because it is true for me as well as for countless others. We all want to be found despite obstacles that stand in the way.   Often, we build barriers and defenses to hide behind, even though what we really want is to love and be loved.  This dichotomy is a part of human nature, and it is a theme all around us.

This theme is obvious in the dating realm, which is full of hiders and seekers.  Some play hard to get.  They create obstacles to a steady romance to see how hard the other will work for their love.  Others feign disinterest. They act unavailable or count a certain number of days before calling back. Some hide their true feelings to allow time to discern how genuine another’s feelings are based on how persistent and true the search.  

As art reflects life, so many stories told in movies, books and songs reflect the theme of hide and seek.  Many movies have a hero who must slay dragons, win a race, or chase off an old boyfriend to win the heroine’s heart. Similarly, many novels follow a protagonist who must prove his love until the final climax when his pursued opens her eyes and realizes that his love is true and she can trust him with the feelings that she has been guarding.

Perhaps this theme originated with the salvation story-a perfect Christ who seeks the hearts of the lost human race.  The sinners who hide in their own imperfections until they recognize that their Savior is their one true love, the One they can be vulnerable in front of.

To mirror Christ’s love, the unconditional love of parents (and grandparents!) displays the theme of loving despite obstacles, hide and seek.  No one knows a child’s imperfections and difficulties better than a parent, and no one loves him more fiercely.  That doesn’t stop a child from thinking he can hide from or avoid his parent.  Yet in a healthy family, he is always found.

Lacey, being human, may be predisposed in her longing to hear “I found you!”  She shares the human condition that wants to be sought, to know that she is loved no matter what she does to thwart it.  As in her preschool game of Hide and Seek, I’m sure she will continue to be thrilled when she is found.

So Lacey, no matter how well you think you’ve hidden, I promise that I will always find you.

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That Time of Year

Sonnet 73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold

When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang

Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, 

Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

In me thou see’st the twilight of such day

As after sunset fadeth in the west,

Which by and by black night doth take away, 

Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.

In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,

As the death-bed whereon it must expire

Consum’d with that which it was nourished by.

   This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,

   To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

                                             ~William Shakespeare

Today I am being both melancholy and melodramatic. This favorite sonnet of mine sums up my emotions perfectly.  What is wrong, you may ask?  Who has left? What has died?

Summer has officially ended.

I reported back to my job as a resource teacher today. Don’t get me wrong; I consider it a privilege to have the career that I do, to be able to help struggling students find success. And for every school year that drains me of my energy, my time and often my sanity, there is a summer that follows which allows me just enough time to refresh and reboot before doing it again. Being in the teaching profession has let me enjoy the magic of summer, like a child, every year of my life since I was five.

Summer has been a time to reconnect with my family, to be creative and to just be me. I have read novels, napped and  been lazy.  I have vacationed and played with my children.  I have completed projects to better and maintain my home.  Frankly, I’ve been a bit self-centered and pampered myself.  I have definitely, as Shakespeare said, “loved that well which [I ]must leave ere long!”

With the start of the school year, time will be short.  The whole family will be on the run. Most, if not all, of my creativity will be channeled into my students. My family and I will come second to the demands of both my job and my children’s education. But while I mourn the end of a magical, wanton summer, I am ready to once again accomplish another successful school year. And before I know it, the sweet birds of summer will sing again.

Kicking Against the Goads

Recently my pastor gave the congregation a challenge. He wanted each person to write down the story of how they came to know Christ. He included a three-point outline in the bulletin intended to help:

1) My Life Before Christ

2) How I Met Christ

3)  My Life After Christ

The problem with such a task for me is that my life doesn’t fit into the three-point outline. I didn’t lead a life of debauchery, interrupted by a salvation moment and followed by a radically changed life.  For years this bothered me.  My story is about a much more mundane person who has been slowly shaped by the Master Creator over the years and who is still a work in progress.

My parents tell me that I accepted Christ’s salvation at the age of three.  I don’t remember the event.  For years, as a child, this caused me worry.  Was I really saved if I couldn’t remember making the decision?  Should I pray the prayer again?  But then, which prayer was the “real” one?  I was looking for the neat, three-point story even then.

When I was in my mid teens I went to camp and made a decision I was sure of.  I would be a Christ follower. That took care of points 1 and 2, but the “Life After,” point 3, was still not the radical transformation I was looking for. For one thing, I hadn’t accrued much in the way of big, obvious sins beforehand, to compare with.  Also, I was still an adolescent, still self-centered and concerned with what I wanted to do.  I didn’t instantly become flawless. I worried that I hadn’t “done” salvation as well as others and wondered what else I needed to do.

It took some more years until the basic truths of Christianity filtered down into my heart. I learned that I was a sinner no matter how small or inconspicuous I thought my imperfections were. I learned that I could not “do more” to redeem myself, but that Christ had truly done it all already when He died and rose again.  He covered me with his righteousness because my own imperfections don’t really go away.  I am always flawed and I always need Him.

I didn’t know it as a younger woman, but I, with all my self-doubt, was in good company. It was that of the apostle Paul, who has an impressive three-point story: 1-Persecuted Christians, 2-Blinded temporarily by a light from heaven while Jesus spoke to him saying, “Why are you persecuting me?  It is hard for you to kick against the goads”(Acts 26:14)  3-Lived the rest of his live preaching Christ’s gospel, exemplifying what a Christ follower’s life should look like.

Even so Paul writes in Romans 7 of his struggle during part 3 to consistently follow Christ. Even though his radical change is obvious in the hindsight of his Bible story, it was not always evident to him.  He lamented of his Christian walk:  “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” (Romans 7:19).  It is, in a way, comforting that someone like Saint Paul would voice the same struggles I feel and need the same saving grace and reassurance that I do.

So I have learned to accept that there is truly no consistency or perfection within me.  My salvation is 100% a gift from the only Perfect Being.  Though I see growth in me, there will never be a faultless point 3 in my story.  My “After” story will most likely continue to be a series of ups and downs,  events where Christ teaches and shapes me, as well as times when I futilely put myself first and resist.

I take heart though in the confusing statement that Jesus made to Paul as the light from heaven blinded him.  “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”  A foot note in my Ryrie Study Bible says that this is a Greek proverb about useless resistance.  A goad was a tool used to prod oxen with to keep them going in a straight line while plowing. I can picture the oxen, at times veering off in a direction of their own and being set straight with a tap of the goads.

I too have been prodded back on track over and over again.  My life, which has felt so haphazard and unplanned at times, has in reality been guided each step of the way.  I hope this will be more obvious someday by hindsight.  I’ve had difficulty going against the goads, like the oxen and St. Paul.  I thank Christ that he cares about this one mundane life and has seen fit to call me and guide me.  And I thank Him that it has been useless for me to resist.

Indecision

“The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision”   -Maimonides

I just finished a mini-makeover for my hall bathroom-new flooring, baseboards and toilet. The labor took little more than a day.  Selecting the flooring took several weeks.  In the end, I chose the pattern I preferred on day one. Thank goodness I had the deadline of impending company forcing me to make up my mind.  If not, I might still be comparing floor samples.

I don’t think of myself as indecisive, but as I chide myself for wasting weeks choosing the flooring, I have to be honest.  When buying my house, I gave myself two years to research.  After a year and a half of looking at houses, my husband had had enough. Within a week we bought a house we’d seen on the first day of looking.  It has truly become home.

When I was ready to get rid of my minivan, I waffled for seven years because nothing stood out as the one car that was right for me.  I finally went to an end-of-year sale at a local dealership and bought the best deal I could find.  I’m still glad I did.

Friday is my favorite day to dress for work. On the other weekdays, I choose a blouse and pair of pants and hope that it passes as professional attire.  But on Friday it’s spirit day and everyone wears the school shirt.  No decision to make!

“Once I make up my mind, I’m full of indecision.”                                             -Oscar Levant

So it seems that indecision comes from fear of choosing the wrong option.  I want all the information before I make a final commitment, but how will I know when I have it all? What if I decide and then find out that I’m wrong?  Perhaps waiting a little longer will uncover a better choice.  At what point does weighing options give way to over-thinking the issue?  Such are my thoughts when trying to decide.

I’ve had no trouble telling others, especially my children, how to make decisions:

  1. Do whatever research you can.
  2. Weigh the pros and cons.
  3. Pray.
  4. Decide and be ready to live with the consequences of the choice.
  5. Nothing is set in stone however, so make changes as you go along.

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”                                -Nelson Mandela

Of course, these simplified steps do not take into consideration other factors that muddy the waters of clear decision-making.

While long delays are undesirable, decisions can definitely be made too quickly.  We’ve all watched people, young or old,  charge into an impulsive endeavor and cringed while we waited for them to come to their senses.  Sometimes it was a relationship; other times it was a get-rich-quick scheme.  In any case, it sounded too good to be true and was.

Perhaps my delays are simply over-the-top attempts to be sure I am making wise, thought out conclusions. As Elvis sang, “only fools rush in.”  I don’t want to make uninformed decisions or pick an option for the wrong reasons.

There is not always one singular correct choice.  In many instances there are several viable options.  Any number of cars, houses, or appliances would fit into my lifestyle. Even where to live or what career path to follow may have a variety of answers.  Decision is really just committing to one path and following through.

I have also come to understand that not every decision needs to be made.  I’ve accepted that some issues are larger than me or are not for me to determine. Can we really be sure about controversial theologies?  Do we ever know exactly what is in another’s heart?  I do not always have a knowledge base large enough to come to a wise conclusion;  and I’ve given myself permission to abstain from deciding in such cases.

So I leave you, dear reader, with advice that I hope I heed. When faced with a decision that must be made: weigh your options, say a prayer and take the plunge.

“Indecision is often worse than wrong action.”  -Henry Ford

Suitcases!

20160617_075942-1.jpgThe suitcases are coming out! Time to shake out last season’s sand and load them up with shorts and bathing suits.  The very sight of luggage littering the bedrooms gives me a thrill of anticipation.  It signals the start of the vacation state of mind.

Vacation!  A period of liberation when we leave stress and responsibilities behind and devote ourselves to enjoyment.  We forget our schedules, break routine and lose track of time. For a short duration, the only concern is our pleasure.  Although this means many things to others, for me it means my freshly pedicured toes are in warm sand.  I am content to watch the tide rise and fall, mesmerized by the endless waves slapping against the shore. The ocean has a heartbeat which lulls my soul to rest. When I am not sitting serenely  on the sand, I am hiking beach or trail in awe of nature’s beauty, inhaling the salty, fresh air blown in from the sea.

Here, in my element, I find my true self.  The person I am obligated to be in my responsible, everyday life gets stripped off like the clothing over a bathing suit. I am reunited with my childish self and I remember how to feel and dream and play. My own children particularly like this and we make memories that glue our family together.  If only for a short while, I get to be the best version of myself.

And so as I fill the suitcases, it isn’t what I put in them that matters.  Their importance lies in what they promise is to come: a chance to be reacquainted with myself and a freeing of the child within.