Don’t Worry, Bee Happy

I no longer need to worry that my son may be allergic to bee stings.  For decades my husband has told us that he himself is allergic to bee stings, though we thankfully have never seen proof of that. He also has maintained that we need to watch for each child’s first sting to see if they too are allergic.

My daughters have been stung and did not show any sign of allergic reaction.  My son, now thirteen, has never had an encounter with a bee, or so I thought until recently.

We were in the swimming pool the other night and a bee was coasting on the water.  I asked my son to help skim it out and put it in the garden.  Don’t kill it and don’t get stung, I told him.  Then I reminded him that we still didn’t know if he was allergic to bee stings.

My brave young man did as he was told and when he returned to the pool he calmly told me, “You know, I’m not allergic to bees.”

“Well, you might be.” I responded.  “You’ve never been stung, so we don’t know.”

“I do know,” he insisted. “and I have been stung.  I just never told you.”  An amused smile came to his newly squared off, teen-age face.

Of course I bombarded him with mom questions: When had it happened?  Had it hurt? Where was I and why didn’t I know about the event?  He answered with the following story.

In Kindergarten, my son’s friend Caleb brought a bag full of dead bees he’d collected to school. For reasons only five year old boys can tell, those bees were a big hit with the playground set. Caleb sold them for twenty-five cents each.  The boys couldn’t get enough of them.  Caleb made three dollars! He gave two to my son for free, because they were best friends.  None of the boys knew that bees can sting even after they die.  So of course most of them, including my son, got stung.  They suffered in silence, though, because even as five year old boys, they knew they should not have been involved in dead bee sales.

His story made me laugh until tears came to my eyes.  I could picture all the tiny boys eagerly vying for the bees, quarters gripped in pudgy hands. (Had they not bought their milk that day?) I envisioned Caleb’s sincere gesture of friendship, bestowing not one, but two free bees carefully into my son’s hands.  I could imagine the group of them stoically agreeing not to let the teacher know they’d all gotten hurt at recess.

I was laughing, yet I felt a twinge of horror at the same time.  Even at the age of five my son had a part of his life I didn’t know about.  He’d kept this secret from me for eight years.  Now, embarking on a trip through adolescence, I can only imagine how many more secrets will be kept from me and how much more significant their consequences may be.

Though my first reaction is to worry, I’ll have to trust that my son has a firm foundation and knows right from wrong.  I’ll have to have faith in the person he is growing into.  I’ll pray for him daily, and I will look forward to the day when we look back on his adolescence the way we looked back on his kindergarten bee story. Then  he will tell me about all the other things I don’t need to worry about any more.

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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.

Mistaken Identity

Jake

Have you seen this story in the U.S. news recently?  It’s been on CNN, MSNBC and in local Charlotte papers.  It’s the type of report you may glance at and think, “That’s terrible!” or “Oh well, they’ve got to do what they’ve got to do to stay safe.”  But this time it’s different for me. That boy on the right is my nephew, Jake.

Jake is my sister’s child.  My sister, who is Caucasian like me, married a man who is of East Indian descent.  His parents immigrated to the United States before he was born.  My sister and her husband have three children, all half-Caucasian, half-Indian.  None of this has ever been important in my family.

Jake just turned eighteen in April.  In high school, he worked hard in classes that didn’t always hold great meaning for him.  He’s an easy-going kid and at times, shy.  His passion is for his music.  He is a talented drummer in an up and coming band.  It may surprise you to hear that Jake is conservative, he is a Christian, and he is a Republican.  He has also shown enthusiasm for one other thing:  Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy.

As a new eighteen year old, Jake is excited to be allowed to vote this year.  He has been a staunch supporter for Donald Trump.  He has worn “Trump for President” shirts to school and debated with others as to why Trump is the right candidate to become president.  Jake even defended Trump when peers called him racist.  It has been Jake’s opinion that Trump would like to better the United States immigration system. You probably can’t find a stronger Trump supporter than this boy.

So the news that Trump was holding a rally in Jake’s own hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina was very exciting. This young, sometimes unmotivated, boy took the initiative to obtain his ticket and arrive early enough at the convention center to wait at the front of the line in the hot summer sun.  He was very pleased to get a front row seat.  He could not wait to see his hero, Donald Trump.

Before theJake2 rally began, however, security approached Jake.  We know who you are, they told him. They said he was an agitator who had protested at previous Trump rallies. Remember, this was Jake’s first ever political rally.  The security officer, escorted Jake out of the convention center, along with the woman in the picture, whom neither Jake nor anyone else in our family knows.  Jake’s attempts to identify himself, or to ask whom they thought he was, were ignored.  He was told that he would never be admitted to another Trump rally.

Ironically, Jake missed a speech by Trump in which Trump expressed that he wanted America to be great for Hispanics, African-Americans and all people.

In the long run, I wonder what Jake will have learned from this incident.  I hope it will somehow make him stronger, more world-wise,  yet not hurt him or cause him to become jaded. In this event, he’s seen that heroes can be flawed.  He may have learned that ideologies can look different up close than from far away.  He also observed first hand that what someone says about you doesn’t become true just because they’ve voiced it.

I know Jake has felt a variety of emotions over the past few days since this has happened to him.  He is confused, insulted and disillusioned.  If nothing else, he would like an apology from the Trump organization for the way that he was treated.

I hope my nephew will continue to be passionate and enthusiastic about issues he considers important in the future.  I  know this ordeal has shown me that my usually quiet nephew is quite articulate and poised in a time of trouble.  I am very proud of him.

 

Happy Birthday

Happy birthday to my son.  My youngest child turns thirteen today.  Thirteen years of roughhousing, competition, guns and gadgets.  Thirteen years of bright brown eyes and tawny, tan-armed hugs.  This boy has captivated my heart over the past thirteen years.

It’s hard to believe that there was a time when I had no plan that included him.  He was a surprise, born more than six years after I was done having children.  I feared I would be too old.  I feared I would lose the freedom I had gained after leaving the preschool years behind. I had no idea how to raise a boy; I’d only had girls.  I did not choose to have this child.  He was chosen for me.

And I thank God for this blessing that I never sought.  My son has filled my heart and brought me joy I didn’t plan on either.  As my other children have grown and are leaving home, my son has filled the house with childhood.  He has protected and taken care of his mother, like the little man that he is.  He has needed me and wanted to be here. We have played and loved and laughed.

I already have an idea of what adolescence will bring.  I pray that I have the stamina to endure it one more time. I know this sweet boy-child will pull away from his mama, as he learns to become an independent man.  I know that in the blink of an eye he too will be planning his departure from my home.  These are things he must do, and I will love him by letting him go when the time comes.

But God, who knows what I need better than I do, has once again provided.  My daughter announced just the other day that she is expecting her second child.  It seems I am well stocked with children to fill my home.  Thank goodness for this cycle of life and my promotion to grandmother.

So today will be about a thirteenth birthday, with boys jumping around, eating junk food, video games, cake and a sleepover.  I will enjoy the days that remain for my son to be my little boy, while they become few and far between. Then I will watch, in awe, the man that he grows to be.  Happy thirteenth to my young man.

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.

Summer Reading

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One of summer’s sweetest delights is catching up on my reading list.  I start the summer off with a visit to a used bookstore and glean all the titles and authors I can find that are on the list I’ve kept all year.  This summer I also treated myself to a Barnes and Noble splurge for my birthday in June.

Since I am a used book store junkie, you’ll find that many of my titles are not new. There are newer books on my reading list, but my finds are generally at least a couple of years old.  While I am reading this stock of books, a newer inventory will come into the store and I will search them out later.  This system works well to join my love of reading with my budget.

Here are a few of my favorites from what I’ve read so far this summer:

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai.  This is the autobiography of the young Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban for being vocal in her support of education for girls.  She survived and continues to address women’s education issues around the world.  She is 19 years old now.

The appeal of this book for me was not so much the writing style, but the fact that Malala was only 15 years old when she became famous for surviving such terror.  She is clearly an adolescent, talking about fights with her brother, clothing styles and blushing about boys. Yet she shifts into a mature persona when discussing her work and speaking engagements.  Her story inspires me and makes me hope that I would be able to stand  up for my own beliefs if the day ever comes when I need to.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.  This novel spans several generations.  It tells of the lives of three women, each from a different era, and intertwines their stories.  I suggest reading this in book format, rather than digital, as you may have to flip back and forth to follow the dates in each woman’s tale as time moves back and forth.  The author cleverly creates a cameo appearance by Frances Hodgson Burnett and suggests that perhaps her classic story, The Secret Garden, was born from her visit to the enchanting garden that is central to this novel.

Though long, this was an easy summer read.  I was mildly puzzled by what seemed like a change in one of the main character’s voice about two-thirds of the way through, as well as an important piece of information that seemed thrown in at the last minute.  It is possible that I was distracted for a transitional page.  Either way, I made the adjustment and was compelled to keep turning pages until I reached the conclusion.  I liked this well enough that at some point I will read Morton’s newer novel, The Lake House.

The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay.  This is a work of fiction which takes place during the modernization of Paris in the 1860’s.  It is told through a series of letters written by a 60-year-old woman as she hides in her house, which is slated to be demolished along with the rest of her neighborhood.  Her letters are to her deceased husband and express what their home has meant to them over the years.  The house and the woman are symbolic of each other as both embrace and protect their family at any cost.

I found this book to be heart-wrenchingly beautiful.  The letter format (epistolary, as de Rosnay says)  is a unique style and makes the telling much more intimate.   It should be read for its own merits and not compared to de Rosnay’s earlier best-selling novel, Sarah’s Key, which I also would recommend.

Some of the books still piled on my queue are:

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.  I know nothing about this book, but keep hearing how much everyone else has enjoyed it.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  I’m probably the last person on earth to read this story, but better late than never.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.  I also want to read Circling the Sun by the same author.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.  I was looking for her novel, My Name Is Lucy Barton, but found this older one instead.  Strout is a new author for me.

About Grace by Anthony Doerr.  I was enthralled by All the Light We Cannot See by Doerr, so I am going back and reading his first novel published.

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  This title was thoughtfully recommended in a comment left by another blogger on a previous post.

As you can see, I will run out of summer before I run out of books to read.

So, what are you reading?  Please leave recommendations in the comments section, and note titles to add to your own reading list.