Thursday, December 27, 2012

Shoveling Out

A winter storm brought a heavy wet blanket of snow six inches deep. My first official act of the day was to step out on the deck, shove some snow aside to uncover the birdseed, and put a fresh supply out. The birds (and squirrels) were probably not grateful for my snow clearing--I don't want to give anthropomorphic traits to them--but they did take advantage of my "thoughtfulness". Even now I can see them zooming past my window on their trip to the deck for another helping.

Feeling like my body was made of half frozen slush, I began to shuffle around my routine while thinking about how the snow was going to affect my day and others. My second official act was to call my parents. We both agreed that it would work if we arrived there later. (It is a two-hour drive to their house and we were scheduled to spend an overnight visiting.) I knew we'd need to shovel out not just our driveway and sidewalk, but also a path to the basement sliding doors, since this was John and Leslie's moving day. Most of their wedding gifts, piled high in the basement, were going to need to be extracted by the movers through those sliding doors. After dressing and breakfasting, we created a route through the white wilderness, but first I had other people to consider.

Next my thoughts went to Bob and Becca, who were blazing their way through the winter storm from Michigan to New York City to catch their flight to Russia to see Laura. I tried calling my sister Janis first, to see if they stopped there for the night and if they had gotten back on the road again. No answer. Then I overcame my reluctance to seem to be (and actually was) a worried mother and called them directly using their cell phone numbers. They were in Pennsylvania, had spent the night with Janis, got up at 4 a.m., shoveled out, and had some rough patches on the road. Now their coast was clear, and although it was going to be tight, they thought they would make it. I sighed in relief.

By this time Jack had the snow blower going. He had bought it a year and a half ago, and the winter was so mild last year, it was never used. This was virgin territory for that clunking, roaring, red behemoth--but it did its job well. Meanwhile I was shoveling snow off the van so it would be ready for our trip. While my back was turned, Jack blew some snow on me, plastering my back with heavy slush. I gave him a look that he somehow interpreted as "so cute". I was amused, but I had not intended to show it.

Now we were almost ready to pack up for our trip. The phone rang. It was Pat. He needed a car to get to the doctor, since he had been sick with a fever for several days. We arranged to drive both cars over to his apartment and leave one with him on our way out of town.

We were shoveled out. Janis was shoveled out. Bob and Becca were shoving through. John and Leslie were shoving forward. We could shove Pat out the door to the doctor. It was time to shove on.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Best Form

Our blindness to deep realities can rob us of many joys of the present moment. If we could see the saints around us as the Lord does, see Jesus in everyone every moment, our hearts must burst with the inability to contain our awe. God loves us for who we are now, but he also knows our potential and never gives that up. He calls us onward and upward always--one of my favorite sentences from The Last Battle in The Chronicles of Narnia..

Being who we are really supposed to be: that is the best form.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Better Form

Life doesn't always go the way we want it to, and we often have to compromise or give up our preferences for others. The hard part is knowing when to give in and when to speak up. I'm very good at not speaking up and conceding before my preference is even known. I even found myself saying out loud to my husband today, "I gave up having preferences a long time ago." Was that true? Not really. What is true is that I don't think about my preferences much, since with most things, it hardly matters which way something goes. Most of the time I just want a decision made so things move forward. I don't want to spend a lot of time on negotiations, especially when I suspect that the outcome will leave me feeling guilty if I got what I wanted or resentful because I didn't.

What I most wish is that the "guilty" and "resentful" feelings would go away. Better yet, that they would be replaced by a joy in the circumstances that did work out. I am happy on the surface about giving way, but I would like that happiness to sink deep down. I am pleased on the surface when I get my preference, but feeling wary deep down that I've disappointed others. It seems that there is a deeper generosity that I'm lacking--the "cheerful giver" generosity. If I had that, then my giving way would be in better form.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Good Form

The bottle said, "Feel Good About What's in This Bottle." I like to eat oranges. I like to eat carrots. So a bottle of orange + carrot juice ought to be good, right? It turned out from the first swallow I began calculating how many days at four ounces a day it would take for me to finish off this nasty bottle of nutrition. I forgot a cardinal rule about liking things that are good for you: it's all about form.

Remember Mary Poppins? We want things that are good for us to be like that spoonful of sugar making the medicine go down. It has to be palatable. But the saccharine coating we require is not limited to medicine or food. We want a Walkman to make our jogging endurable. We want a bit of flattery to make the verbal correction seem reasonable. Like Calvin, we don't want the barfing face sticker, even if it is more truthful than the smiley face. Make the hard stuff pleasant.

When my kids were small, like all parents, I wanted to get good food down them. Quickly I discovered that the form you present it in makes all the difference. Celery is no fun, but celery with peanut butter down the middle and a row of raisins (and call it "Indians in a Canoe") is real eating. A whole apple is boring, but slice it up and use pairs of slices to make apple smiles and the doctor will never be at your door. The trick is making the nutrition fun. Somehow peanut butter always has something to do with it, too...

None of us likes discipline by itself. We want the reward that comes with it to keep deciding to do whatever that discipline is. Virtue, being its own reward, is all well and fine, but there would be a lot more goodness in the world if it was paid off with Godiva chocolate. And the more distant the reward, the harder it is to stay motivated. My bottom line motivation is to get to heaven, but on a day-to-day basis, I'm asking for the grace to get through one day. I haven't changed the goal. The top rung of the ladder is still there, I am just focusing on the rung above the one on which my foot currently rests. Like Psalty, we climb our mountains one step at a time.

So, if you want me to do a better job, tell me what I've been doing right so far. If you want me to smile more, smile at me. A kind word and a wink goes down better than a scolding. And beets cut into heart shapes will get eaten faster than ones that are just sliced. The flavor hasn't changed. It's all about good form.