Tuesday, November 30, 2010

That's the Night That the Lights Went Out in Kansas

Last winter we had a power outage.  It wasn't storm related.  It must have been a grid thing, because the electricity was on for the houses across the street from us but not for the houses behind us.  It only lasted about an hour and a half, so it really wasn't all that inconvenient.  But I learned a lot in those 90 minutes.

First, our parents were serious when they told us to keep emergency candles and matches handy.  I have long since used my emergency candles for other emergencies ... like a birthday cake.  We found some Yankee candles, however, and my bedroom ended up smelling like oatmeal cookies and cinnamon toast.  Which, of course, made us hungry, but we couldn't cook anything (see comment about lack of electricity above).  That's when I learned Lesson Number Two:  Always keep emergency food on hand.

Now, granted, we didn't actually move into starvation mode.  No one started looking at our dogs longingly or thought wistfully about the plate of dinner they didn't quite finish.  No one made rash statements like, "I will never push to the side or sneakily toss my lima beans to the dogs."  But we did talk about how we might try to not take for granted the many blessings we have.

Lesson Number Three came in the form of quietness.  Somehow, when it's dark, it's also quiet.  We found ourselves speaking in low voices.  We broke out the guitars which were strummed softly.  We shared memories, we shared hopes, we shared some dreams.  And it was there, in the quiet, with candles burning and music softly playing, that I was reminded of the most important lesson of all:  My family is my biggest blessing.

We're not perfect; most times we're not even awesome.  We struggle, we argue, we get knocked down a bit.  And, honestly, there have been times when I've wondered if I was really just too messed up of an individual to have a family.  But there, in that gift of quiet darkness, I could see and hear so clearly. I wouldn't trade my life with this man and these boys for anything.

It comes as no surprise that our electricity came back on.  Appliances started humming.  Voices resumed their normal volumes.  Everyone scattered from our bedroom and resumed their normal getting ready for bed routines, and I felt just a bit of disappointment that our forced quiet time together had come to an end. 

I've thought of that evening many times.  There have been a few events since then that have made me very thankful we shared that special evening.  And today, as I experienced the first snowflakes of the season, I thought again of that winter's night, and it made me smile.

There's a part of me that silently hopes we have another power outage (a short one, with no harm done to people or food).  And just in case, I'm going to round up some candles and matches.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lost, Found, Repeat

Jesus told a few parables of people searching for what was lost: a sheep, a coin, a son. The lessons are about how God passionately pursues us, and how significant we are to Him. Recent events have made those lessons more clear to me.

It's that special time of year when we find ourselves spending our weekends doing outside chores.  Yes, we enjoyed the shade of the trees through the summer, but now those leaves are falling at a much faster rate than we can rake them into bags.  In addition, water hoses need to be stored, the lawn needs to be seeded, and the window units need to come out of windows where they worked overtime keeping the sleeping occupants cooled in rooms the central air conditioning just couldn't quite reach. 

On a recent chilly weekend, Dale got out the ladder and set his sights on those window units. (A note about chilly: A 53 degree day feels much more chilly in October after a long summer than does a 53 degree day in March, in which case we would break out the summer clothes.) It wasn't long before Dale sent out a "Help, please" as he encountered a window frame that had somehow been broken without our knowledge.  Hmmm.  Welcome to the world of raising boys.

Not long after that, another distress signal was issued.  This one was serious.  Dale had lost his ring.

Please understand that, in the great big scheme of things, a ring is not life or death.  It's a possession.  A thing.  It's not as important as one of our children.  Or anyone's child.  But this ring was special.  It was a ring that belonged to my dad, and my mom gave it to Dale.  It is a beautiful, probably expensive ring, but it means so much more to Dale than that.

So, we looked.  We raked leaves.  We got down on our hands and knees.  We rented a metal detctor, which we have promised to do again because one boy was completely distracted by the potential millions of dollars worth of treasures buried in our yard (at least that's what the metal detector led us to believe).  I even got out the binoculars and risked life and limb hanging out the window to look for the ring.  After a few hours, when all hope seemed to be lost, Dale swept back some leaves we had poked through numerous times and found the ring. THE RING WAS FOUND!!!

Immediately Dale handed me the ring and told me to put it away.  He didn't want to risk wearing it and losing it again.  He confessed he was thinking of what he was going to tell my mother and how nice it had been to be part of our family for 23+ years, but he didn't hold out any hope that he would be allowed to stay in the family.  (He is so silly.  He would have to do something way worse than this to get kicked out of my family--they really, really love him.) I put the ring in my camera bag and promised myself to take care of putting the ring up until such time as I can get it re-sized to better fit Dale's finger. 

In my defense, EVERYONE in this house KNOWS not to trust my memory.  While I can still recall the phone number of a friend from 6th grade, I cannot seem to remember more recent things.  Like when to return a library book.  Or what I named my children.  Or where I put the ring after removing it from my camera bag.  Yeah, that happened.  I put it in a safe place. I'm sure of it.

A few weeks later, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about that ring.  I started looking for it in all of the "safe" places I generally place things.  I found a secret stash of chocolate, a key we had misplaced, a movie ticket stub from several years ago (Thank God I found that!), and a jewelry-making tool I'd been looking for.  But no ring. 

I searched the camera bag again.  No ring.  I searched every jacket pocket, pants pocket, and trash can.  No ring.  I started thinking of worst-case scenarios like maybe I did leave it in the camera bag and it fell out when I took pictures at Calder's football awards.  Or maybe one of our dogs ate it and I needed to again rent the metal detector to find the ring in the backyard, if you know what I mean. 

And I started to panic.  As silly as Dale was to think he could get kicked out of the family for losing that ring, I'm not quite that silly.  I KNOW I would get kicked out of the family for losing that ring.  How would I tell my mom? Start with the good news, and then sneak the bad news in? "Hey, Mom, your grandson's broken leg healed perfectly, everyone is getting good grades, looks like my work load is picking up a little bit, and I lost Dale's ring."  Maybe she wouldn't notice?

After two days of frantic searching and BEGGING God to please help me find the ring, I looked in the least logical place.  And that's where I found it.  It was in my purse.  You know when you've been searching for something and then you find it and you think, "Oh, yeah, now I remember putting that there"?  Well, I have absolutely no memory of putting that ring in my purse.  None.  I really have no idea when that happened.

But it did make me think about how we pursue what is lost.  I have done some pretty stupid things over lost relationships and lost dreams.  I have done some pretty brave things to find lost children (the ball pit in McDonald's Play Place is not for the faint of heart).  I have searched successfully, and I have searched fruitlessly.  And I have found this to be true: the more significant the loss, the more passionate the search (and the bigger the celebration, or at least the bigger the relief).

Draw your own life lesson here, but I'll tell you what I've learned.  I make mistakes ALL the time, and I need to take responsibility for them.  But the next time I'm feeling lower than worm sweat because of something I've said, or done, or thought, I'm going to remember that I am significant enough to be pursued.  Passionately.  Like someone would pursue a treasured ring. Or a sheep.  Or a coin.  Or a child. "Rejoice with me: I have found what was lost!"

PS--I called my mom and told on myself.  She only had two heart attacks but is now recovering nicely, and we agreed that I won't tell her if we ever lose the ring again.  And the ring is in a safe place now.  I really mean it this time.