Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Life...a cuckoo clock with rusty gears" (Anne Lamott)

I have a hard time with imperfection. Imperfection in others, and most especially in myself, offends me. We are made in God's image, so why, I frequently ask Him, did He leave out the 'perfect' part?

I don't like to know that my paintings are less than masterpieces, that I will never play the guitar like Yo-Yo Ma plays the cello, that my tapestries are not ones that that the Louvre will ever choose to hang, that my hair is grey and even laughter is giving me more wrinkles every day, that my house is dusty and my garden is filled with weeds, and that I always sing a bit flat.

Anne Lamott (Stitches) has said that "life is more like a cuckoo clock with rusty gears" than it is perfect. 'Life is hard, and then we die': both a goofy old bumper sticker, and a Truth. Life can be cruel and heartless, though we can find kindness and compassion within it. Life can be everything that is imperfect... in fact, life is everything that is imperfect. How can it be otherwise, when it is populated by such imperfect beings as I?

I look for pockets of perfection, but I rarely find them. The few I have discovered have found me when I was not looking or expecting them. Perfection seems to come in very tiny doses: a child's love, an unexpected hug from a friend, a moment of beauty in nature or art or music that brings tears of wonder to my eyes, shared laughter, and tiny glimpses of compassion and understanding for or from others.

Imperfection, on the other hand, seems to bombard us constantly. We are slammed in the face with ugly violence, with deceit, with greed and hatred. All of those are so far from the perfection that is God, that is Love.

I would have liked, as I grow older, to have come to a greater understanding of this life; to know why, to understand the meaning of all the imperfection in our lives and our world. But that has not happened for me. Age has not brought about an understanding, or even an acceptance. I continue to rage at inequality, at cruelty, at violence for the sake of greed or power. I still do not understand or accept when children become victims of these things, when families and nations are torn apart by them.

The bad news? 'Life is hard, and then you die.'
The good news? 'Life is hard, and then you die.'

That is the only hope I have to give for dealing with all these imperfections. Someday, I will be perfect. And then I will understand. I will know the 'whys' of the Sandy Hook massacre, of wars and of weeds. I have that hope, because I know it is not in my hands, nor in the hands of those who are as imperfect as I, but in the hands of my God. And, because of His Son and His sacrifice and resurrection, I will someday face him as a perfected me.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Her Children Arise and Call her 'Blessed!'

From my sketchbook

Proverbs 31 A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.

My Mother will be 92 years old this week. She has been married to the same good man for over 66 years. Surely my father has had confidence in her, and she in him, the greatest majority of that time. Together, they have been an example of a Godly marriage, not only to their children, but to all who know them.

12 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.

15 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.

My mother was a school teacher. I remember many nights, going to bed while she was still at the kitchen table, grading papers or making lesson plans. She took pride in her work, and it was evident in the love shown by her students and the creative atmosphere in her classrooms. My mom taught school before she was married, with a 'normal school teaching certificate.' When the Kansas teaching requirements changed, Mom went to work part time at Sears to put herself through college, so she could teach again, all the while, keeping up with a rowdy household of eight (and often more.)
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

Although my mom was not a spinner, she made many of our clothes when I was a child. And she has embroidered sets of tea towels for wedding gifts for many of her grandchildren. Watching her embroider these on my porch or in their motor home was a delight to me, knowing that my love for handwork came from her and from her mother.

20 She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.

I do not know of all the stories of good deeds my mother (and father, as they are always 'in it together') have done for others. But I have heard and seen enough of them to know they have often been willing to do without themselves, to help others through hard times.

22 She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

Mom's home has always been tidy and lovely, decorated with many chickens, and often smelling of homemade cinnamon rolls. The doors have always been open, as we shared many meals with college students, random family members, church members, and stray friends that hung around us most of my growing up years and beyond. Mom has also always been very careful in her own appearance, and in the appearance of we 'kids,' making sure she and we always looked attractive and modest.

23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

Anyone who knows my Father knows this to be true. He is still highly respected, wherever he goes, and my Mother shares that respect for, and with, him.

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

I am one of six children who have always been able to arise and call my Mother "Blessed." She has been, and still is, the kind of Christian wife, mother, friend, and woman that I strive to be. She is an example to the many who know and love her: her husband, her children, her 16 grandchildren, and even her many great-grandchildren.

Happy Birthday, Mom! I love you very much!