When thinking over the past, and musing on more recent efforts to reach out to other people and initiate friendships, I found myself a bit discouraged.
I have found that I have to take the initiative with 90% of the friends that I currently have–checking in with them and making time to get together in person. Nothing new, that’s the way it has worked throughout my life. All I have to do is remember that’s how it has always been. To get enough people time, I make the phone call 90% of the time.
I’m used to that.
I guess I’m less fine with the amount of effort it takes to initiate with new people, because in that arena it’s pretty much 100% me.
And that makes me wonder if it’s worth the effort. Perhaps my effort to reach out to people outside my usual circle just isn’t needed.
But here’s something God gave me as I was thinking about this.
Over the past twenty-five years, I have had people who reached out to me. I can see these women’s faces right now. They took the time to make friends. I reciprocated and over time, close friendships developed–some within weeks or months. In a couple of cases, these women were literally praying for a friend, and then I came along.
But what if?
What if these women had been reaching out before they met me, over and over again, and for a long time there wasn’t any particular response? What if I wasn’t the first person they initiated with?
What if each one of them had stopped before they ever got to me?
Not going to stop reaching out.
Someone gave feedback about something creative my child did. It was positive.
I hope she didn’t notice my jaw hitting the floor.
In the past, what my son has had to contribute to group situations has been aggravation and argumentation. I really don’t expect any positive feedback when we go out and about.
So when she said in response to something he did, “I love that. What a great kid,” it completely made my day.
We were at a STEM class at a local science venue, and the students were supposed to be looking at various types of rock. It was a class in earth systems and one of the topics was the varying density of different types of rocks. We had spent some time examining different specimens and having fun identifying them, but my eleven year old wasn’t particularly interested in submerging rocks into water, measuring how much displacement occurs, and calculating density based on that information.
He’s more into space and things that involve explosions.
So I wasn’t surprised, but just chuckled to myself, when he picked up not one, but two of the hand-held magnifiers we were supposed to be using for examining specimens and started running around the room with them on his face like bug eyes.
What was refreshing was the way someone else’s kid picked them up and had fun doing the same.
And how low key the lesson facilitator was about redirecting them.
And then the positive comment from another parent.
I’m so glad she took the time to mention it.
So I realized a few days ago that I am now the same age that my mother was at the time I got married.
I was already aware that my oldest child is close to the age I was when I got married, so I knew in a general vague way that I was technically old enough to have a child doing suchlike adult things as getting married or having children. I have friends who are grandmothers so there’s no reason I wouldn’t be at that point myself.
However, for some reason, looking back in time twenty-seven years at who my mother seemed to be at the time I got married, is different from realizing that I have a child who is old enough to become married.
I think it’s because your mother is always old and wise.
It’s just that once you become old and wise yourself, you realize that old ain’t old any more. Wise, sure, but trust me, my age is not old!
But wait a minute–I sure thought of my mother as old and wise when I got married. I didn’t even really think about it. I guess I just assumed it. She knew everything there was to know about being an adult, she was a functioning adult with a thriving career and many interests, who knew how to fix every problem.
But I’m fairly certain I have not gotten there yet.
Which I guess is what makes this so strange to think about.
I have been thinking this week of our Savior’s capacity to absorb, absolve and take into himself all of our mess and shame and guilt.
There is no end to it. No matter how much we are damaged by others, how much we are doubted by ourselves, it is all neutralized by God. He meets the onslaught of our failures and it does not even slow him down. This tidal wave of love is not repulsed by our refusal to believe that he covers it all. He is not remotely disturbed by our disbelief in his mercy and compassion, the compassion that is for us, for you and for me personally.
Come with your regrets
Come with the things you can’t change
Come with all your fears
With all your shame, with everything
Come with the pieces of your bruised and broken heart
Whatever pain you’re dealing with
Let me offer this
Come however you are
Come with all your heartbreaks
Come with all the mistakes you’ve made
Lay them down at the cross
Give them to the God who loves you
Hurt, scared, falling apart
Come however you are
Nothing can separate us from this love, neither life nor death nor the present nor the future.
Nor us, ourselves.
We’ve really never done trick or treating. We live in the country and never get trick or treaters, and being homeschooled we aren’t in the mainstream where other kids are talking about costumes and candy all the time. Plus, I really did not want to get into it with my youngest being extremely susceptible to the effects of food coloring, high fructose corn syrup and too much sugar!
Not to mention the work of creating costumes–blah.
However, this year friends asked us to join them at Ridgecrest Avenue to see the amazing decorations, and my son had been doing much better dealing with the ingestion of sweets. Despite his general dislike of being around people he doesn’t know, the draw of cool decorations and candy was too appealing–so I told the kids if they were entirely responsible for their own costumes, they could go. I would drive them there and walk up and down with them to see the sights and mingle with the throng.
Large crowds, uncontrolled situations, and Halloween have never been my cup of tea, so this was definitely putting myself out there.
The night of Halloween all started off well. The kids had their costumes taken care of and when we arrived in the neighborhood we had no trouble finding a parking place. Waiting for our friends to arrive, those who were already there talked and laughed.
Once all gathered, smallers corralled in strollers, we made our way to the desired thoroughfare.
It was jammed with people.
So far so good–but then my son discovered the classic problem with a ghost costume (one that I had not thought to check for, since after all, the costumes were not my problem): eye hole size creates visibility problems.
Avoided a face plant but he did fall down when he tripped over sidewalk stairs he couldn’t see.
He’s back at my side after getting the candy, and somewhat tearfully says, “I think I’m done, Mom. I can’t do this.”
Internally I’m sighing and cringing, thinking, “Please Lord, let my child on the autism spectrum have a normal, positive, standard childhood experience,” while not at all sure there is a way for that to happen.
However, I have an idea that we can hold the sheet back so the eye holes are easier to see out of, with the same masking tape that has already repaired a shattered sword for one of our friends.
And, friends to the rescue. Mom of six has, among other things, scissors and a safety pin with her…thank you Lord.
I tell my son, “I have an idea for how to modify your costume, so you can see out better. Can I try that?”
“OK,” he accedes, and I pull the sheet off briskly, and proceed to cut the eye holes larger. My son is ill at ease at first, as he notices that he is delaying his sister and four other children.
But, thank you Lord again, my friend tells him, “It’s all right; this is no problem. They’ll wait for you. That’s what friends do.”
Eye holes widened, the costume is re-applied to his head, and we safety pin it back.
“How does that seem?”
“You want to try it? I’ll be right behind you to start out with.”
Off he goes, reassured, with his sister and friends.
They walked the entire circuit, up Ridgecrest and all the way back, and my son kept his ghost costume on until maybe the last 1/5th of the journey. He had a wonderful time, collected a delightful amount of candy, and was so pleased with his experience and all the creepy or funny decorations.
Who knew something so blessed, friendship, could shine so brightly on a dark night?
Congratulations. You got a man.
Now for the rest of the story.
Very important: everything you’ve heard or read about not being able to change a man is true. I’m sorry to have to break it to you, but you can be saved days/weeks/months/years of beating your head against the wall, if you stop trying to change him.
He can change and he will change in some areas of life. But he’ll change when he is good and ready, or when God changes him, not when you change him.
Prime example: TV viewing.
Give it up. He is going to watch TV. He is going to watch shows you don’t like, too many hours of TV, stupid commercials, you name it. But it isn’t going to work to nag him. It isn’t going to work to put the TV in the closet for the first three months of your marriage. He will just want to get it back out again. Don’t fight it. Because you picked a good one, and when the rubber hits the road, and there is something that is important that needs to be done, he will turn off the TV and do it. (But he might do it quicker if you don’t bug him about watching TV.)
You can’t imagine the life events, difficult, challenging, sad, exhilarating, which will meld you to your husband over the next twenty-seven years. And that’s all right. It’s good, it’s messy and it’s difficult. Just live one day at a time–you don’t need to figure out in advance how to solve the problems you don’t even have yet.
You won’t believe how much better sex is after you have given birth vaginally, than before. At first it won’t be the love fest you imagined. But–good things take time. It will be worth the wait.
Also, you aren’t going to believe how hard it will be to communicate openly and honestly. I know, you’ve done the premarital counseling, and the two of you rate yourselves pretty high on honesty. You think you really know how to problem solve. You think you can talk about anything.
Wrong. But you’ll learn. You’ll learn about instantaneous communication on a gut level which is unique to the two of you. You’ll also learn that you can be married for decades and think you have made a decision about something together, only to find out he, or you, have no memory of the conversation in which said decisions was made.
Then you’ll learn how to renegotiate.
Oh yes! Very important! This is something our American culture does not advertise or appreciate like other cultures do. It’s a secret, but I will tell you now–
When you marry him, you marry his family. And he marries yours. You have no idea how important these wonderful and crazy people will become to you after years of being related! It’s the craziest, most frustrating and most wonderful aspect of marriage that you will not hear about in advance. Your mother-in-law is worth her weight in gold. Your kids will be so blessed by their aunts and uncles. You will walk through the valleys and the joys with more family than you had before. Make the best of it–and the most of it.
Also very important. He really does need to make love more often than you would prefer. Just love him the way he needs to be loved. It’s like what you need from him–he doesn’t understand why you need him to listen to you talk, or why you need a back-scratch, but he meets those needs even though he doesn’t understand. Taking care of each other unconditionally is the foundation of a strong marriage.
He will insist on putting barbecue sauce on the meatloaf and pork chops you make which already have their own sauce. Just ignore this; commercial barbecue sauce makes him happy.
Oh, also, he will teach you to appreciate big dogs. Surprise!
You will never love him more than when he agrees to take the whole family camping out west for the second time–when he thought the first time was a “once in a lifetime” trip.
He will become both intimately familiar to you (a great comfort) and yet continue to surprise you on a regular basis (a great joy).
You will find out he is not Prince Charming, although his teeth really do glow in the dark, and he smiles often at you (apparently because he is easily pleased). He is just a regular human being, and he will let you down some of the time.
Right now, you think that because you both are good-looking and smart and snappy, life will just fall into place as planned. Wrong. You may be all those things, but life is no respecter of attributes. It takes a lot more than good looks to get you through a crisis. But that’s where your husband will prove his worth, trust me.
To take the pressure off for tomorrow–
First, it really will be all right if you go on your honeymoon without your favorite pair of pink shorts that are still at the cleaners.
Second, don’t waste time worrying tonight and tomorrow morning before the wedding about whether you are making a giant mistake.
You’re not, because it’s a lie that there is one “Mr. Right” out there and you should agonize about whether he’s it.
Twenty seven years down the road together, you will know that he loved you enough to make himself Mr. Right.
One good thing about having many trees is–woodpeckers.
We see them fairly often in the winter eating birdseed on the back railing, but today I was so fortunate as to see them in the woods, doing that thing they do with trees.
I heard them first, of course. A thudding and then the irritated “Chowchowchowchow!” the red-bellied woodpecker uses to alert us, I guess, to his or her presence. I spotted this one working in an area of medium-sized trees at the top of the cliff downstream of the bridge over Buck Creek.
In the winter we almost always see a male and a female, who both become displeased if they notice I’m watching them out the kitchen window. They seem to think I’m a threat and will fly if they catch me enjoying their glorious progress up the railing, their smooth convexness snowplowing seeds out of the way.
While listening to the red-bellied, I noticed movement in front of me.
Taptap. Taptap. The downy woodpecker was discretely checking small limbs upstream, proceeding charmingly up the trunk like a tiny black and white feathered elevator, making regular stops. Every so often it chirped, meticulously covering its territory so as not to miss a potential meal.
As if these two weren’t enough to make me want to write, I was almost back to the house when I heard yet another ratatat.
This glorious bird was flying from tree to tree near our pond, keeping an eye on me, but still researching meal options. It was a pileated woodpecker.
Hopefully, it’s still on the willow tree. I’m going to check.