Wednesday, April 22, 2009

bio glimpse - Michael J. Fox

I've been fascinated with biographies for almost as long as I can remember.  As a girl, I read through the entire section of them at my local library, without preference for men, women, well-known, little-known.  I've been thinking about taking them up again with my kids...  Anyhow, I still love to hear people's stories, where they've come from, what they have overcome or learned.  Maybe now and then I'll write about someone that catches my attention here.

Last week, it was Michael J. Fox popping up in two places - first on a recorded episode of the Daily Show, and then in an interview in TIME.  When I was a kid, I watched just a bit of Back to the Future on VHS tapes.  When I went to college, he let the world know that he had Parkinson's disease.  Even though I wasn't a big MJF follower, it made enough splash in the news that I did a term paper on the disease at some point during college, learning enough to know that it has something to do with trembling and dopamine.  

It's been more than 10 years since that now.  I don't remember ever seeing him speak in person, so I was intrigued to catch his interview with Jon Stewart.  To see someone who has been masterfully eloquent sit with slightly awkward movements and a quivering voice - in spite of that to see him be confident, optimistic, acting not the least bit embarrassed - it was really captivating.  

In the TIME interview, a reader asked - "How do you keep your optimism in the face of difficult circumstances?"  
Fox's answer was - "I think mostly it's about acceptance.  I have no choice about whether or not I have Parkinson's.  I have nothing but choices about how I react to it [my added bold].  In those choices, there's freedom to do a lot of things in areas that I wouldn't have otherwise found myself in."

I thought that insight was profound.  Maybe it's not Parkinson's for me or you, but we don't have to look far to find moments or years of loss, frustration, or dissappointment that we wish were different, whether in the big picture or life or the little picture of today.  That those difficult moments happen is beyond my control.  My reaction is within my control.  Bitter or forgiving, angry or patient, apathetic or caring.  Making the positive choice opens opportunities instead of closing them.

Funny, it's the unexpected reactions of others that catch our attention and lift us up - like Fox's unexpected optimism (Jesus forgiving his murderers in his last moments comes to mind just now too).   Something I'll be thinking about...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Here's to sunshine and love...

My teaching semester is wearing on - three more weeks left. The weather has been mediocre, I've been tired, John's been sick, blah, blah, blah.

And then, what do you know, the sun came out yesterday! Sun shining in the house, sunglasses while walking Abby to school, sun, sun, sun. Even the cheesy little newsletter from the furnace people observed the joy of sunshine - 'Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day'. ~W. Earl Hall. (Two things to that - 1: so me and John's quest for happiness through science will _never_ pay off, and 2: well of course spring makes me happy, I don't have to pay for a FURNACE bill!).

In spite of all that sunny-ness, I still spent some of the day wishing that he'd clean the bathroom and she'd stop waking up crying at 4 AM every day. But when I got home yesterday from a long night of work, and the girls and daddy had left a little something on the table for me, it was all forgiven for the moment. Thanks guys!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The merits of my worrying

I'm pretty good at worrying. I worry for myself and on (unrequested) behalf of my family. Health, plans, virtues, love, work, faith, tomorrow, next month, next year. I don't discriminate too much. I seriously wish that I didn't worry. It accomplishes little except discouragement for me and those around me. This week has its own set of worries that I find to mull over in my head.

But if there is one thing to be said for all that worrying, it is this - it actually sends me running to God. I talked a little with my sister while she visited about a type of meditation, about dealing with stress and wrongs and worries, letting them go and finding them replaced with love. On the one hand, tapping all that love inside of me sounds wonderful. But on the other hand, my biggest hangup is that it sounds hopelessly impossible. Something in me cries out for a bigger Someone than me to step in, knowing that I fall short over and over. It is almost exhausting to think of all the work that it would take to let go of all my worries, not to mention faults.

And so in my worrying, I turn my thoughts upward instead of inward or outward. The fact that my worrying makes me desperate for the help of another is probably its only merit. The words below are stuck on my refrigerator door. (Sometimes, I'll stick a list of worries directly next to it, just in case I forget what to worry/ask about!) I find that praying becomes easy when I just take the worry words and send them upward. In giving my worries up, I find God's peace almost immediately as I'm reminded that there is Someone big enough to pray to.

"Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness (peace), everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life." Philippians 4:7-8

Go ahead, give it a try too.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Spiritual solidarity - or not

My sister (hi Danielle!) just spent the last couple of weeks with us - since we've lived at least 2000 miles apart for 10 of the last 11 years, it is a rare treat to spend that much time together. My kids love her imagination and craziness. She and John get along great, whether it's commiserating as I go to bed early or playing bruising games of raquetball.

And of course, as sisters, she and I share so much in common - love of being in the kitchen, playing cards, being active outside, etc. etc. There are a few things we differ on, like the appeal of her beet salad and taste in movies/documentaries/books. Big deal though. One topic that came up a few times though raises some discord between us - spiritual stuff.

I have my beliefs about God, after life, values. She has hers. We're each seeking and pursuing truth, and feel the friction as we discuss it with each other. It's not fun, it's not comfortable for either of us. I think that we both long for some sort of sisterly solidarity in what we believe.

As I think about it, I think that most of us have that longing to agree with each other on spiritual matters. Maybe it's selfish as much as anything, a longing to be validated that I'm right about what I am believing or doing. Solidarity is community of feelings, purposes, responsibilities, interests. Belonging to community beats the alternative, discord (lack of agreement; conflict, dispute, friction).

Spiritual solidarity takes many forms. At one extreme, maybe it explains why people buy into cults, where there is so much agreement, even on details, that things get out of whack. Or what about the denominations or sects that each religion has, the ones we (fiercely?) align ourselves with? On the other end of the spectrum, maybe we seek solidarity in a non-sectarian practice or belief system, or non-denominational churches, or unitarian beliefs. Then we all agree that "non" is the best and rally around that. In one form or another, to one degree or another, it seems we're all seeking that spiritual solidarity - including in our families!

Maybe our search for the comforts of solidarity is a mis-prioritized search. I return to the words of Jesus that I've read lately, because he's the starting point of my own faith. "Let the dead bury their dead, you follow me." "What is it to you if he lives until I return, you follow me." "Seek first the kingdom of God."

Before I'm seeking the comforts of a spiritual community that agrees with me or I agree with, am I seeking and following God?

(That's me, out on a limb alone.) P.S.- Love you Danielle, thanks for visiting!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Overlooked kids

I've read a couple of places this week about miracle babies, or tiny ones fighting for their lives. I'm amazed at the fight that these little ones and their families put up for life, and especially the support that sprouts up around them.

Without taking anything away from the little ones, my thoughts turn as I look around me at dozens of kids every day. I look at my own two girls. I think about the thousands in my city, probably over 2 billion on our globe. What about them? They were formed perfectly, and have moms and dads (and others) who have poured care into them from day one - are the lives of those kids and the love of their parents deserving of more support and celebration than we're giving them???

For me, the obvious answer is a resounding YES. Instead of coming alongside a frazzled mom who is yelling at her kids, I sometimes think - "how could she talk to them like that?" She chose life for them. She takes them to the doctor. She puts food on the table for them. I know how challenging those little things can be for me. Of course they are for her too.

Our schools, and even our church Sunday school classes have a chronic shortage of volunteers. There is always room for new foster parents. For court-appointed special advocates for children of abuse - I see those on billboards around town every week. And that doesn't even scratch the surface of needs of children around the world. Giving my time to fill in those holes - even just a little locally - is a sacrifice. I'm only sometimes willing to make it.

In focusing on the lives that are not yet or are just hanging on, are we overlooking the treasure of children who already are?

If I can jump on the bandwagon to pray for or sponsor a baby or child far, far away, can I celebrate and encourage each child (including my own), and each all-important parent or caregiver that crosses my path this week?


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Tying the knot

Today, I have not nearly enough money to save (love paying bills!), I am too ignorant to make good PowerPoint graphs for work tomorrow, I am less than perfect as a mother, I am wishing for summer. Not really at the end of my rope, but imagining that it is nearby. In the midst of all that, I read this quote in a daily email from a colleague. I found it just realistic and practical enough to bring me a much needed smile...

“When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”—Franklin D. Roosevelt