Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Golden Occasion

I've heard that a person's "golden birthday" is the birthday of the year number that falls on the day of the same number. For instance, my birthday is on September 5th, so my golden birthday was my fifth birthday. Next year my oldest son will be 17 on May 17, so that will be his golden birthday. Kind of cool, isn't it?

Well, last Friday Jack and I celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary on June 22nd. So I figure this was our golden anniversary. I know, I know--"Golden Anniversary" is a special term reserved for the 50th anniversary, but it seemed to me that the 22nd on the 22nd deserved special recognition, too.

So we celebrated. I have to say that I think we're better at celebrating things now than we were 22 years ago. Jack was in Manhattan working, so I joined him there. It was so exciting to fly to New York and to do very New Yorkish (or is it New Yorky?) things. One evening we went to the swanky bar at the W Hotel and then on to a very cool restaurant, Asia de Cuba. Another night we went to an early dinner at Bond 45 and then to the Lyceum Theater to see Inherit the Wind with Christopher Plummer and Brian Dennehy. (This was so exciting for me; I had never been to a New York play before. And yes, I kept hearing Christopher Plummer say, "And I am the head of the family von Trapp, am I not?") Then on the last day we went for a picnic in Central Park, went shopping, and went to another wonderful restaurant, Rosa Mexicano. Wow.

But the biggest "wow" for me, I think, was realizing that, as of this anniversary, I've been married half my life. A little more than half, actually, since I won't turn 44 for a couple more months. And while the things I did during the first half of my life seemed so significant at the time, it's really the things I've done in the second half that have been most important. It's amazing to have lived with someone for so long, to have experienced the birth of three children, the death of two parents, 10 moves (five different states!), three dogs, hundreds of friends.

There's a song from the musical RENT called "525,600 Minutes": have you heard it? It asks how one measures a year, which includes 525,600 minutes. Jack and I have now lived together more than 11,563,200 minutes. That's almost more than I can count. It reminds me of one of my favorite childhood hymns, a little song by Johann Hey.

Can you count the stars of evening
That are shining in the sky?
Can you count the clouds that daily
Over all the world go by?
God the Lord, who doth not slumber
Keepeth all the boundless number:
But He careth more for thee,
But He careth more for thee.

Can you count the birds that warble
In the sunshine all the day?
Can you count the little fishes
That in sparkling waters play?
God the Lord their number knoweth;
For each one His care He showeth.
Shall He not remember thee?
Shall He not remember thee?

Can you count the many children
In their little beds at night?
Who, without a thought of sorrow,
Rise again at morning light?
God the Lord, who dwells in heaven,
Loving care to each has given.
He has not forgotten thee;
He has not forgotten thee.

Golden, indeed.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Smashed

My oldest son, Will, is a very good driver. Other parents had told me that I'd be doing a lot more praying after Will got his license, and I have to admit that's the truth. I've found myself thinking about his safety in ways I hadn't thought for years--back to the kinds of thoughts I had when he was a little boy and one day just ventured off down the sidewalk. . . going to town? Or just going. Now he's going again.

Last Friday he was going, and making a careful job of it. Unfortunately, not all drivers observe one of the rules that Will always follows: No Cell Phone Usage While Driving. In fact, some drivers will speed along, heedless of red lights, describing their whereabouts to friends, until they are forcibly stopped. Not stopped from cell phone usage, but Stopped from speeding along. Such was the case when an elderly woman rear-ended Will at a busy intersection last Friday afternoon.

Boy, was he mad. After all, he had done everything right. He was stopped at the red light, just as he was supposed to be. The woman was still talking on her cell phone even after she had smashed into him. She did end her call, finally, and it turns out that she was from out of town, was lost, and had called a friend for directions. If only she had pulled off the road before making the call.

Oh, well. Things happen. Thank God I listened to my husband when he was considering what kind of car that Will should drive. Will was driving a very safe car. The rear end of the car was badly damaged, but Will was fine. He was mad, and he wasn't particularly complimentary of elderly female cell-phone-talking drivers, but he was unhurt.

It is an amazing thing to arrive at the scene of an accident, to see two cars badly smashed, and to see your child sitting in one of those cars. The what-might-have-beens are too awful to contemplate, so for the most part you just don't contemplate them: there's only so much your heart can take. So you concentrate on the police report, and on calling for a tow truck, and on getting the car to the body shop, and on talking with insurance adjusters, and on arranging for a rental car, and on the countless other little inconveniences of being the victim of an accident. And you are so thankful that you're only dealing with inconveniences.

One day soon the car will be repaired, and Will will be off driving again, no doubt keeping a weather eye for old ladies on cell phones.

And I? Oh, I'll be praying. Maybe I'll pray while I'm driving. I probably won't be making many phone calls.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Turning too fast

There were times, when my children were very small, that I dreamed of the time when they'd be old enough to do things for themselves. I remember the crazy days of having a 2-year-old and a newborn, feeling like a one-armed paper hanger. Or there was the time when I finally got a cell phone--only for emergencies, of course!--because I needed to drive across five states with a 6-year-old, a 4-year-old, and and yet another newborn. Those days of feeling a little overwhelmed seem so close in my memory.

What happened?

The other night my husband and I went out for a special date and our 16-year-old promised to babysit for our 10-year-old. "Wonderful," I thought. (It really is so nice not to have to line up babysitters any more.) What I hadn't reckoned with, though, was that my husband had arranged for our 16-year-old, a proudly licensed driver with a car at his disposal, to take our 10-year-old out to eat and to see a movie. I mean they went out to a proper restaurant--one where you have to order and leave a tip for the waiter--and then on to the movie.

A little bit of my heart went out the door with them that night.

Very vividly now does a scene come back to me. I was visiting my mother when my oldest child was just three weeks old. We took the baby for a walk in his stroller, and as we walked, my mom told me that I should savor the moments of his babyhood. "Turn around," she said, "and he'll be leaving." Then she quoted one of those sweet Kingston Trio songs she always loved:

Where are you going, my little one, little one?
Where are going, my baby, my own?
Turn around, and you're two
Turn around, and you're four
Turn around, you're a young girl
Going out of the door.

At that point I still had the swollen tummy of a new mother, and I could hardly imagine fitting back into my skinny jeans, much less having that little baby big enough to leave. So I did a pirouette on the sidewalk and giggled at my mother. She just gave me one of those wise smiles and said, "Wait and see."

My mother has long since gone on to heaven. I wonder if she could see me that night as I watched my babies going out of the door. I wonder if she was saying "I told you so."

"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

At least I was wearing my skinny jeans.


"Turn Around," copyright 1959 by Harry Belafonte, Alan Greene, and Malvina Reynolds

Friday, June 1, 2007

What's in a name?

I was asked about the title of my blog, "Isn't grace a gift of God?" Of course it is. But it's also a gift that we can give one another, and I think it's one that many of us are desperate for.

To tell the truth, I chose that name as a bit of a challenge for myself. I confess here that far too often I've used my ability with words to do harm. Put another way, I've withheld grace when I should have given it. And it's recently occurred to me that, if indeed I have a gift for communication, then the gift is from God, and it's rather spiteful of me to use it in any ungodly way.

Have you read Thomas a Kempis's THE IMITATION OF CHRIST? I've only read parts of it, but this stood out to me: "If it is permitted and advisable to speak, then speak of those things that nourish the spiritual life. Negligence about our spiritual progress and yielding to bad habits are the reasons for our keeping so little control over our tongues. Godly conversation about spiritual matters very much helps spiritual advancement, especially when persons of like mind and heart are united in God" (Helpful Counsels for the Spiritual Life, Chapter 10).

Ouch! I have had so much practice in withholding grace that I've become not only good at it but quite comfortable with it.

Time for a change, isn't it?