Friday, March 26, 2010

I Can't Wait to Be Old

I love old people.  I'm just like some jerk about to crack a Polack joke, who says, "Some of my best friends are Polish people."  Well, many of my good friends are elderly and I love them dearly.

So while I confess to you that I often and joyously make fun of old people, I have to remind you how much I look forward to becoming an old person myself.  As I mentioned before, there's an 80 year old lady in me, who I very much aspire to be.  So my mirth is always mixed with the very real hope that I can be just like them someday.  After all, there are some real advantages to advanced age.

I can't wait to be old enough to pick a fashion decade and stick with it for the duration.  There's a gorgeous, stately woman I know, who must be over 80.  She looks like an ad from Sears & Roebuck's 1926 catalog.  She probably hasn't had to buy a stitch of new clothing in thirty years.  If she were my age, she'd be a social outcast, and have to compromise and at least buy a pair of oversized sunglasses or something, but at some point, she didn't have to cowtow to every fad anymore.  She just found what she liked and wore it.  The prime example of this phenomenon, of course, is the purple & red ladies.  Let's just say my youth group might have trouble focusing if I showed up in red & purple feathers each week.

I can't wait to open my car doors unapologetically.  I had to get a minivan, not because my two kids overwhelmed a sedan, but because I got so tired of the guilt that went along with watching my kids door-ding every parking lot neighbor I sidled up to.  Sliding doors are a real salvation for my guilt complex.  But as someone who parks daily in a church parking lot, I can tell you from experience that pulling up too close to a Buick or Cadillac when there's a sewing circle or fish fry going on will inevitably lead to car doors that look like Brad Pitt's acne scared cheeks (I have a picture somewhere that proves this about Brad Pitt, for those who choose to deny the reality of his failed teenage hygiene).  Someday, I am going to drive a big boat, park in the wider spot by the door, and throw open my doors with the boldness of an aged woman.

I can't wait until fake eye lashes and bright lipstick won't suggest to the men around me that I'm going to charge by the hour.  I can't wait until I get to subsitute a clear plastic bonnet for my umbrella.  I can't wait until a wig will be an acceptible alternative on a bad hair day.  I can't wait until I can afford to buy the best seats when my favorite band re-organizes to release a new album after a fifteen year hiatus.  I'll sit way in front of all the youngsters who would have died for my seat and dance like a maniac to all three "early" songs, then leave when the good music starts.

My daughters have trouble with the idea of my mortality sometimes.  They become deeply concerned about the reality that our parents will proceed us in death.  I worry about that too sometimes, because I still get to enjoy the company of three of my four grandparents and both my parents.  I don't know what it will be like to bid farewell to someone who made an intense inpression on my personality and my DNA.  But I tell my dauthers often that I pray, before we have to say good-bye, that we get to be old ladies together.  Because we're going to have a hoot!

I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. Psalm 63:4

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm Lucky I Haven't Run Someone Over

I've had no less than three utterly stupid moments behind the wheel of a car in the last month.  I don't normally consider myself to be an awful driver, but at this point, I have to consider the possibility.

Two were at least partially the result of heavy fog.  Driving at night, I thought I was taking my exit, only to realize as my headlights lit up the green exit sign 10 feet in front of me, that I had passed the exit and was cutting across the shoulder.  To avoid the sign, I cut over like a maniac.  It was only by good fortune that no one had already moved up to occupy that lane, or I would have run them right off the road, because I panicked and did not look.  Praise the Lord, no loss of life, time, or treasure resulted from my folly.

You would think after that, I would have slowed down when I encountered another foggy day.  But I apparently had not learned my lesson yet.  With no such perilous consequences, my second foggy day experience involved completely missing my turn - twice.  I had to invent a new way home to accommodate my utter lack of effective foggy-weather driving, but at least I didn't risk anyone's life.  I guess I did learn something from my earlier mistake.

Yesterday, however, I cannot blame on the fog at all - other than the fog in my head after getting back from a long road trip last week and still being a little out of sorts.  It was clear and sunny.  I had set my cruise control to my accustomed 5 mph over the speed limit, and was cruising along the freeway, heading home from work.  I noticed that the river was flooding and began to ponder whether it was high enough to cover the bike path yet.  I didn't realize that I was focusing more and more on the scenery and less and less on the road in front of me, until I glanced up and saw the back end of an old Taurus station wagon.  I hit the brakes pretty hard when I realized it was only going 55.  I didn't have time to even check my blind spot, let alone change lanes.  Whatever excitement it generated for me, I'm sure the driver of the Taurus had some choice words on his lips when he saw me roar up on him like that; and his wife ought to send me the cleaning bill for his shorts.

And my dad thought the red light I ran while visiting him was the worst driving I've done lately...

I don't say it lightly that I praise the Lord when these things happen and there are no consequences, because I know sometimes people lose their lives when they make mistakes like mine.  Yet I also know that if every mistake someone made on the road resulted in the worst case scenerio, there would be no one left to drive; and the glory for that goes to God.

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.  Psalm 91:11

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I Pee When I Laugh at My Own Jokes

My lack of bladder control is historic.  My tortured family could hardly settle into their morning bathroom routine without a frantic knock on the door from little Emmy, demanding use of the stool.  They generally respected my panic, however, and yielded the right of way.  Too often, they had witnessed or cleaned up the aftermath.

As I got older, I learned all sorts of tricks to counter my weakness, but there is still one situation in which nothing but Depends can help me.   If I crack a joke that causes people around me to laugh, the combination of surprise, joy, and laughter overwhelms my bladder control.  It really makes me a supreme dork.  You're supposed to play it cool when people laugh at your jokes, like "yeah, I knew you'd find that funny."  Instead I'm the biggest idiot in the room, because the joke is on me.  "What?  You found that funny?  Now I feel so silly, I think I'll pee my pants."  If laughing at my own joke doesn't make me look stupid, the damp spot on my backside will!

Some of my great moments include: a successful skit in German class, after which I had to hide my butt with my Espirit bag to get to the bus without humiliation; every single time I've participated in a "little people" skit at camp; donning left-over hospital diapers before a get-together with friends who make me laugh; and the list goes on.  My longtime friends and family can probably add plenty of additional examples. 

People wonder when I preach why I don't tell more jokes...well, now you know.  I love to laugh.  Taking myself or life too seriously is against my nature.  I just have to believe that God has a sense of humor, too, because having to moonwalk out of the room after I crack a good joke is how, by God's wisdom, I'm designed.

..."God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me." Genesis 21:6

Friday, March 5, 2010

They Aren't So "Holy and Dearly Loved" By Me

There is nothing more flattering that being "chosen."  The old cliche about the disappointment of being chosen last is not a cliche, but a reality of life, for most of us, at one time or another.  In a lot of ways, being "un-chosen" could have defined me, especially as a kid.  I was not athletic or outgoing.  I often went unnoticed, at home, at church, and at school.  But in a strange reversal, it is not those moments that made the biggest influence on me.  Instead, it was the moments, often separted by years, of being chosen.

Being chosen, in my mind, is receiving a blessing from someone who has nothing to gain by sharing it with you.  When someone pulls you out of the crowd - just because.  I felt chosen at my aunt's wedding when I was 3, when the bride asked me to come take pictures with her; just the two of us.  I felt chosen in Fifth Grade, when my teacher, Mrs. Murrell, took me under her wing and encouraged me to be myself.  I felt chosen in middle school, when a charming, friendly, brilliant girl named Marybeth struck up a friendship with me and helped me figure out how to finally fit in.  As a college student, I was uneasy joining the church choir; it was my first public commitment to church life.  Barb Barnett made room for me in the alto section and offered to store my folder in the slot that had been her late husband's just a few months before.  She put me at ease and became a beloved friend. When my husband came along, he acted like he knew I was the one for him the first time I returned a call.  Thirteen years later, he still makes be feel chosen, every day.

These people, and others as well, didn't wait for an invitation to step into my life and make it better.  The feeling of being chosen that they gave me modeled God's love to me and shaped my attitude about why I'm here and what I do.  No matter how many kids show up on a Wednesday night, it is my goal to give each of them a look in the eyes, a pat on the shoulder, a word of affirmation that makes them, however briefly, feel how chosen they are, too.  But I have been struggling lately, to show compassion, kindness, or patience with some of our kids.  As the city has spread, our church has become more urban, an influx of refugees has brought cross-cultural challenges into our youth and children's programs, and there are still the usual mixture of well and poorly behaved kids to reach. 

My theology and my goals are still the same; each one of those young people is chosen and dearly loved by God and it is my job to help them see that in themselves.  But I have to admit; there are kids in whom the Image of God is pretty buried for me and I have to work really hard to see and act on it.  Sometimes, I think I send kids home feeling overlooked and "un-chosen."  And I have to wonder how buried in me the Image of God is, for them.

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Colossians 3:12