Monday, January 18, 2016

Box of Answered Prayers

Collin's boy scout troop listened to the high school basketball coach and met the team.

They even sat on the bench.

The boys were giddy (and strangely subdued) to be around the team.

A box full of answered prayers.

Another box with answered prayer.

Right now, Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" is blaring from my upstairs thanks to the gentlemen re-carpeting our floors.  It seems appropriate; right now our house feels like a jungle.  To re-carpet, practically everything that could be moved from upstairs has been transported to the main level.  By looking at our downstairs, you would think this is a family of hoarders.  Looking at the display downstairs, I feel (sickly) like a family of hoarders.

This is our second round of chaos in a week.  Painters came last week and the house looked equally as turbulent.  Living in this state has made it easy to feel out-of-sorts and disagreeable.

To even get to this level of disorder, we spent time weeding through possessions and cleaning out closets.  The process was both tedious and eye-opening.  As I pulled out old photos and unearthed dust boxes, I realized what these items meant. 

A whole wicker basket was filled with magazines.  Those magazines included articles I had written for those publications.  It was a box filled of answered prayers, I quickly realized.  I had prayed for opportunities to write and magazines interested in my work.  The box was tangible proof of answered prayers.

But, that wasn't all.

The bridal trousseau box.

The baby pictures.

The boxes filled with birthday cards from dear friends.

The diplomas.

The running bibs.

The vacation photos.

There were boxes and closets filled with answered prayers that I've been too busy to acknowledge.  When I looked at the piles of accumulated stuff in this way, my feelings of discord were replaced with gratefulness.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Fart Piano

We have sorta been in denial that winter would actually arrive.  Forty plus degrees in January was almost too good to be true.  And today reality came crashing back as temperatures nosedived and snow accumulated.  Hello again winter!

Saturday morning, I woke up to the melodious sounds of "Jingle Bells" played on the fart piano.  Who said my boys aren't musical? The fart piano arrived in our house thanks to a white elephant gift exchange.  To the boys, it was like Christmas arrived one more time.  There's nothing that elicits as much joy and excitement from sons as fart noises belted out in every key.

I'm not sure whether to be proud or mortified about the fact they can now play everything from the "Wedding March" to "Happy Birthday" on an instrument that would make the original songs' composer cringe.  And there's even been talk of using their band instruments to accompany the fart piano.  Hearing "Mary Had a Little Lamb" as a duet between a baritone (played at a fifth-grade level) and a fart piano are sounds that won't easily be erased from memory.

I thought about deep-sixing the fart piano.  Surely, they'd move on and find something equally entertaining (and easier on the ears).  But, hearing four boys laugh and squeal over the fart piano is truly music to my ears.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Modeling a Life Well-Lived

Who knew cups could still entertain teens and preteens?

This little man has a zeal for creating.  I love to see how his mind works.

Several years ago, my Grandmother was in a car accident.  The details have become fuzzy with time, but what I do remember is that her car swiped a semi.  The collision pushed her vehicle across the median and head-on into incoming traffic.  She barely missed smashing into another semi truck.  When family heard about the harrowing ordeal, we all marveled that she walked away without a scratch.  It was not the day that God had planned for her to go, we gratefully agreed.

Several months ago, my Grandmother suffered from a massive stroke.  Family rushed to the emergency room. The situation seemed dire.  We braced ourselves for the worst and made peace with the fact that Grandmother would soon be in heaven.  But, she pulled through (but with lasting impairments thanks to the stroke). 

Today, she sits in a nursing home.  Her vision was mostly wiped by the stroke.  Her lucidity varies.  Her motor skills and mobility are  hindered.  She spends most of her time in a wheelchair or a bed.  But, when I've visited, she maintains her signature smile and cheery laugh.  Her spirits have (mostly) remained intact.

We know Grandmother wouldn't want to live in this state.  We pray she doesn't suffer.  And sometimes I wonder why God has kept her here.

I visited Grandmother yesterday.  She wore a New Year's Eve hat and seemed pleased at her gathering of visitors.  She engaged in banter (some lucid, some not....she was stumped by the year).

As I was walking out of her room, I thought maybe God has kept Grandmother here for us.  Maybe she's hear to model how to live life well, even when a body fails and a mind succumbs to injury.  She shows us how to find joy in the simple pleasures, friendly visits with relatives and holding hands with an aging spouse.  She's teaching us to persevere when the circumstances tell us to lack hope and fall into despair.  And because of that, I think God has granted us these days.

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year's Resolution: Be Grateful

New Year's Eve started out at a Japanese steak house with friends.

Kids came too.  Some approached the dinner with deep seriousness.

Dinner was followed with a New Year's Eve party.  Dear friends kept me laughing until midnight.

Chris fancies himself as a rapper.  He showed off his skills with the help of a mic, a karaoke machine, and a good sense of humor.

On the days following Christmas, many friends and strangers have rehashed their holiday experiences.  Several shared cheery Christmas stories that rivaled those depicted in a Norman Rockwell painting.  But others, the most honest sort, added unfiltered details.  Those friends admitted to the burnt casseroles and the awkward family moments.  Although our Christmas was a treat, it included some hiccups.

Take Christmas morning.

When the boys first eyed the tree bursting with presents, only three sons appeared ecstatic.  One son huffed at his loot.  He spewed out his concern and disdain.  Just by looking at his pile, he imagined his requested gifts were not included in his stash.

I seethed over his reaction.  "He's so concerned about what he doesn't have, that he's failing to appreciate what he was given....and it's a lot," I quietly huffed.

After the presents were opened and the boys were entertained, I jumped into the shower and reflected on this son's reaction.  As I mentally recounted the chain of events, I grew angry.  That's when I was struck with an epiphany (showers seem to lend themselves to those moments): This is how I treat life.  This is how I treat God.

I'm standing in front of an endless supply of gifts, good ones.  And yet, sometimes I react like this son.  I fail to appreciate what I've been given, and sulk about the one thing that is lacking (and may not even been a good gift at all).  The magnitude of this picture sent tears streaming down my cheeks.

And it inspired me to make a change.

My New Year's Resolution has nothing to do with a calorie counter or exercise plan (although both would be helpful).  My resolution is to be more grateful and joyous about the gifts I've been given, and less focused and distraught over what I perceive to be lacking.

I want to be a "have" person.  I resolute to be thankful for what I have, and not fixated on the have nots.  

I want to be a "can" person.  I resolute to be thankful for what I can do, and not downtrodden by what I cannot do.

I want to be happy with what "is."  I resolute to be content with what is, and not bitter by what isn't.

I resolute to make 2016 a year where I focus on gratitude, as I have been given much to be grateful.