Monday, May 29, 2006

Days Gone By

Seems like a long time ago. Our first baby. Almost 30 years ago, in fact. And now, our little girl is having her first little girl. I'm leaving Wednesday for Princeton where I hopefully will be in time for the birth of Jen's baby. I've been looking at the old pictures and waxing nostalgic as I prepare to go. It's funny, but now, when I look back at myself, I think I looked like a child. And I guess we were. Bruce was 23 and I was 21. We didn't really know much about parenting. Well, I didn't, anyway. Bruce had 6 brothers and sisters and he really knew more about taking care of babies than I did. But I learned. The hardest thing for me was losing sleep. I mean I really like to sleep and until I accepted the fact that I just was going to have my sleep interrupted, I was really grumpy about it.

Jennifer taught me a lot. The best thing she taught me was that I was no longer the center of my universe. I now had someone who depended on me and needed me just to exist. That seemed to snap me out of it. And I needed to learn that lesson. Life is so much better when you realize that the world does not revolve around you.

So...I'll be traveling this week and hopefully welcoming my granddaughter into this world in the next few days. Rest assured that there will be a post with pictures as soon as possible. She's due tomorrow as a matter of record, but given the fact that both her mom and dad are rather stubborn, I'm sure she'll take her own sweet time to appear.

Please pray that labor and delivery will go well and for blessings on us all as we welcome the newest member of our family into God's beautiful world.

Monday, May 22, 2006

51 Years of Practice

So what is it that I've been practicing for 51 years? Life, my friends. Today is my birthday. I am 51. And so, I'd like to share a few of life's lessons that I've learned during these 51 years.

  • It's better to want what you have, than have what you want
  • Children actually do much better if they don't have what everybody else has.
  • You don't have to go on lavish vacations.
  • You should never accrue large balances on your credit cards.
  • You should always exercise even when you don't feel like it, especially when you don't feel like it.
  • Money spent on books and music and healthy food is never wasted.
  • Eating together as a family is really, really important.
  • Never be reluctant to apologize to your spouse or your kids.
  • Talk to God all the time and ask his advice.
  • Don't work at a job that doesn't suit you.
  • Appreciate the fact that God created this planet for you, and that gives you some responsibility for it.
  • Always treat people that serve you with respect and dignity.
  • Your home needs to be a place of peace.
  • Try to see people as God sees them.
  • There are still heroes of faith today.
  • Not all church people are nice.
  • It does feel better to give than to receive.
  • When you look at your kids and see God reflected in their lives, it makes all the sacrifices it took to get there, really, really unimportant.
  • People are more important than things.

There's more I know, but this will have to do for a start.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

How much is too much?

A little update. Remember my ugly back yard? Well, it's still pretty ugly but we are definitely making progress . Plants are going in the ground, beds are being dug (thanks, Bruce) and birds are visiting. There's something very soothing about planting a garden and having birds come to see you. Birds are sort of like cats in that you can't call them and expect them to come. They just sort of favor you with their presence. So it becomes a real gift when they show up.
We had a little discussion last night about the spiritual and the material and the difficulty sometimes in knowing when too much involvement with say, hobbies or passions, can interfere. The example was someone who is totally into the Mariners. Spends their free time, money, and thinking about the Mariners with little time for much else. Since I think all that is silly, I have no trouble dismissing that as way over the top. But what about something like gardening, for example. Or reading, or scrapbooking, or blogging or any of the other myriad of hobbies or interests that are neither good nor bad in and of themselves. Can those things interfere with your spiritual walk or development or however you want to think about that? Or, is God OK with that?
The question as I see it comes down to are these things mutually exclusive or as we pursue those passions and our interests, is God right there in the middle of it? Does this question come up because of an inherent misunderstanding of material and spiritual?
I'm not into guilt, but I can see where I could make myself feel really guilty about this sort of thing. Of course, there is always something that we could be doing to help someone else. "The poor will be with us always." But wouldn't we drive ourselves crazy by thinking that way?
I'm not really bothered by this question. I think I'm more bothered that I'm not bothered, if that makes any sense. I've seen too many people in my day driven to do "church work". They always struck me as anything but peaceful and "my yoke is easy and my burden is light" sure didn't seem to apply in their case. Maybe that's why I've never considered this question. How much is too much?

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Bridge

"The colossal misunderstanding of our time is the assumption that insight will work with people who are unmotivated to change..."
Edwin H. Friedman
Truer words were never spoken and if this has ever been a problem for you, please take the time to read the following story, The Bridge, exerpted from Friedman's Fables. This is helping me today.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Fractal of Life

I like the Lion King, don't get me wrong, but I'm just a little tired of the "Circle of Life". It's been totally worn out in my opinion, so I opted for what seems to me to be more descriptive of what I have been experiencing for the last few days--the "Fractal of Life".

A fractal being what you see pictured above. Now I'm no mathematician, but a fractal seems to have inherent within its design a sort of repetitive theme. The offshoots in the fractal that are pictured are remarkably identical to the bigger picture. That's how I see it anyway. And here's what I mean.

We traveled to TN over the weekend to see our youngest daughter graduate. It was pretty much your typical graduation. A boring speaker (the Right Honorable somebody who is the head of the Bahamas) trying to convince us all that the Bahamas are heaven on earth and we should all cast off our 3-piece suits and opt for splashy Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops. All I could think about was the muppets in "A Christmas Carol" singing "This is my island in the sun". What that all had to do with graduation I can't say. But then, I probably missed his point. I'm sure he had one, but my mind tends to wander in situations like that. But, in addition to this rite of passage for Emily, we also gathered as the Thweatt family celebrated our patriarch's, Bruce's dad, 80th birthday.

On Friday night, at the regular "Friday Night Live" that Bruce's mom and dad always attend (this is an outreach to the Chinese students at Vanderbilt), Bruce was the speaker and his topic was concerning marriage and parenting lessons he'd learned from growing up in the missionary household of Enoch and Jeannine Thweatt. His dad was unaware that he was the speaker and that was the first of several surprises. The next day was graduation but unbeknownest to his dad, as many as could of the Thweatt clan arrived for a surprise birthday celebration that evening. It was fabulous. He was totally surprised and we had a grand time. He was surprised the next day as well when the Chinese church that they work with had a potluck/birthday celebration in his honor.

Today, my oldest daughter calls me and asks for me to relate my feelings about my birth experience with her. That was quite a walk down memory lane and I didn't realize that we had never talked specifically about this topic before. I mean there were bits and pieces that she knew, but a lot that hadn't ever been spoken. I don't know that I ever did this with my own mom. In fact, the only thing I know about my birth is that I was born on Sunday. That's it. So, the suggestion that Jen talk to me about my experience (since I'm hoping to be there for hers) was a good one. If I had tried to do this when she was say, fifteen, my rhetoric would have been met with rolling eyes, I'm sure. But today, she was totally interested.

All this to say that life is indeed remarkable. When you get to be my age (middle age, I guess) you begin to start the process of looking back. I realize that every part of life is wonderful in its own way. I saw this weekend through Bruce's dad, the beautiful fruit of a life lived for God. The love of his family, the love of the church, and all the relationships that he and SuMama have forged through the years. It was a blessing to behold. I saw in Emily the turning of a page. The time of life that is so uncertain. What to do next? Where to live? Where do I go from here? I heard in Jen's voice this morning the excitement in the expectation of new life. What will she be like? Can I do this? The realization of the responsibility for another person.

This weekend I saw some remarkable similarities between Bruce and his Dad. Physical similarities yes, but more important, similarities in values and faith. A lot of what Bruce and I feel is important for our family came from our parents. I see in my own daughters, the values that we hold dear. Once again, in a most tangible way, I am reminded of the great influence that we have on others, particularly those most close to us. I'm thankful for my children. I'm thankful for my parents. And I'm thankful for the transforming love of God that has shaped and continues to shape our families.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Thoughts on the empty nest

It's finally here. That moment in time that you think about after your kids are born. The time when they have all have graduated from college and they are all married.

Our youngest, Emily, graduates from MTSU this coming Saturday with a degree in Interior Design. This has been a long haul for her. She apologizes for this sometimes, but Bruce and I don't mind. She started out with a Music Industry major of sorts, because she's our musical kid, but after a while, the cut-throat part of that industry made that pursuit lose its appeal. Changing majors just adds more time to the educational process. But much better to fiddle around and find out what you really like to do while you're in a position to do that, than get all qualified to do something you have no passion to do.

She's always had a great eye for design and color. She was our computer generation kid. The video game kid. The only one who had access to a VCR as a child. She cut her teeth on Dr. Who because she could watch episodes over and over. When I was little, I watched Opie, Ricky and Lucy, and the Beav. When she was little, she watched the Logopoligans, the Sontarans, and the Daleks.

It is a bit strange to find yourself as a couple again after kids. But Bruce and I didn't have much time together before our kids started coming. We're having that time now. It's fun. We like it. It's not that we don't miss our kids. We do. But there's something intensely satisfying about knowing that we did our job and our kids are involved in their own stories now. We know that there are things that we probably would have done differently, but actually, not too many. It is very satisfying to me at this point in my life, to look back and know that we took care of them ourselves. The good and the bad of their upbringing is our doing.

Our life with 3 girls was like a hugely successful sit-com. The characters very varied and very real. The life situations were sometimes tense. There was drama--much drama. There were crises. Would they make it until the next paycheck? Tune in next week and see. There was romance. Which boy would it be? Will the Dad scare them all off??

But every successful sit-com has its day. Now there are spin-offs. There are 3 more stories being told. Every bit as successful, just additional characters and new settings. The difference is that in real life, the original story goes on as well. It may not have the same kind of drama, but it's totally dramatic in its own way. The romance may be a bit different, but it's there none the less. And yes, the question about the paycheck remains the same.

So Saturday, when I watch Emily march across the stage and get that diploma, I won't just be thinking, "Thank goodnes, she's finally done.", instead there will be a myriad of thoughts swirling through my mind. I'll probably see a video clip in my head of her as a baby and all through childhood. I do that sort of thing. I'll see her being married and I'll see her as she is now. I might even fast-forward and see her as me. Sitting in an audience watching her child graduate. I'll probably cry.

It's a visual reminder of the passage of time., something we have no control over, but the essence of which, we have great responsibility for. I'm proud of Emily. I'm proud of Ally and Jen. I'm proud of their lives and the impact that they will have on others. Our stories don't really end. They are just continued and that makes me happy.