Mid October and it’s supposed to get up to 85 degrees today. Ugh. I turned the AC back on. Lizzie has outgrown all her summer tops and I hate sending her to school every day in shirts and shorts that are straining at the seams. Bring on the cold weather! I did get to use my electric blanket one night last week – on low. That was nice. It’s just kind of a schizophrenic time of year, I guess.
I spent some time at the mall a week or so ago. As I walked through, I noticed that they were playing Christian music over the loudspeakers. Huh. Then, it occurred to me that any more, there’s not a whole lot of difference between secular and popular Christian music, so that could be why. Later, I was in Dillards and I heard hymns playing. I thought to myself, “Wow – now that’s really nice!” I was enjoying them for quite some time before I realized the hymns were coming from my own pocket. My music on my phone had accidentally turned on and it was Anthem Lights singing one of their hymn mash-ups! That’s a little embarrassing…
The by-pass in town has these electronic signs they use for various reasons – bad weather or road shut-down announcements, usually. Last week I was driving around on Columbus Day and the sign that day read, “Today is Columbus Day. Discover your turn signal!” I told the boys about that later and they looked at me blankly, wondering why I thought such a thing was worthy of re-telling. I thought it was cute, anyway. More and more, I am feeling older and out of touch with their generation. More on that later.
I ran up to DMACC last week and got my FAFSA filed. I was going to do Will’s too, but the lady suggested that Will double check with Grandview to see if it would be better to do it off my tax return or his and Arien’s since he’ll be married by the start of the next school year. He did and now I’m going to have to make another trip up to Ankeny to do his! This time I had to walk through part of the campus and I noticed someone had put up several signs on a section of grass that read, “Free Speech Area.” Oh, brother. But it got my wheels turning in kind of a sarcastic way. So does that mean the rest of the campus offers restricted speech only? If you have something to say that’s not approved, you have to go to that triangular piece of lawn to do it? Or maybe it’s the only spot on campus you’re allowed to say dirty words. I imagined a cluster of students standing there saying every naughty word they could think of (like little kids sometimes do when their parents aren’t around…well, at least we three did once that I can remember!) before moving onto the sidewalk and resuming their normal, peaceful and cultured speech. Whatever. Dumb college kids thinking they know everything and need to fix the world that was so screwed up by the generation before them…
Oh, speaking of college (but not dumb college students!) I had a nice note from my writing professor last week in regards to my research paper (on which I scored a full 100 points). She said “Sara, this is so wonderful! Honestly, I can't even recommend revision. You have a real gift to write and evoke passion. Congratulations.” That means a lot coming from a college professor. Maybe, just maybe I’ll be able to turn this writing ability into a career. Wouldn’t that be great? I’m almost afraid to hope because it’s a dream that’s so close and dear. It feels scary to even put it out there in writing!
I’m wrapping up this class and my geography class this week. All I have to do is write a paper arguing for the grade I want in my writing class. I can’t tell you how uncomfortable this assignment makes me! We Iowans are not accustomed to bragging on ourselves. That’s not part of our Midwestern values! And I have my final exam in physical science. I am pretty sure I’m getting an A in there – thanks to all Will’s help. Next week I start a class called “Advanced Composition.” I wonder what that one will be all about? It runs right up until 7 days before Christmas.
I had to go to a funeral today. As I drove there I found myself getting really anxious. I don’t know why when I’ve been able to attend other funerals since Paul’s death. This was somebody I knew, although her death was not sudden or unexpected or even particularly unwelcomed. Actually, it was Arien’s grandmother who’s been suffering with cancer for a few years now. As it turned out I ended up not actually attending the service. I brought some food for the dinner and helped get that set up and then I had planned to sit in the service for a few minutes before going back downstairs to help serve the meal, but I got to talking with a friend out in the foyer and before we knew it, we needed to get down and help get ready to feed people.
We served chicken and noodles which was one of the Departed’s favorite meals. I’ve heard of this but I don’t understand it – putting chicken and noodles on top of mashed potatoes. That’s two starches – why would you do that? But nobody seemed to think it was a strange combination so I kept quiet. Actually, after I left a meeting on Sunday, having agreed to make a crockpot full of chicken and noodles for the funeral, it suddenly occurred to me that I’ve never made those before. Hmmm…So, I spent some time on Pinterest and found a recipe. I thought it turned out well so I’ll probably make it again. But I’m not serving it on or with potatoes!
I had a medical scare last week. “Scare” is probably too strong of a word – maybe a “concern.” I finally got around to getting in for my yearly mammogram and a couple of days later received a call that they had “found something” and they wanted me to come back. So I made the appointment for two days later which gave me two days to imagine all the worst case scenarios. It didn’t help that I had the mammogram again Friday and then I had to wait for the radiologist to read it and then they made me do it again! Those things are pretty painful, for the uninformed and uninitiated, by the way. And then they decided I needed to have an ultrasound. And, oh, that hurt too. There was this one hard spot on the side of my right breast that they were all kind of freaking out about. I ended up having to have a second ultrasound does, as well. Finally, they decided it was only a cyst. So, they’re going to leave it alone for now. But it was welcome news and because I was able to put aside these visions of me participating in Will’s wedding bald or worse yet, traumatizing my kids by dying, I didn’t even mind all the pain and time and $60 the afternoon cost me.
So, I went to a wedding last Saturday. I still don’t like weddings. It was a mid afternoon wedding so all morning long I could feel the anxiety and dislike for what I needed to do rising up in me, making me kind of snappy, etc. It didn’t help that Lizzie was having an awful day. She had a bad week last week, although this week she is as good as gold. In the end, I didn’t let her come to the wedding because she was so awful. The up side to her being bad is that Ellie immediately turns into Angel Child. So, I took her alone. The boys were not interested in attending. Will and Arien went but they drove separately and sat separately and did their own thing. So, anyway, the time finally came when I needed to be going. As I was driving I was telling God, “You know, I really don’t like going to weddings anymore. They hurt!” And immediately, part of the verse found in Rom. 12 popped into my head, “Rejoice with them that rejoice, weep with them that weep.” The young man getting married actually sang at Paul’s funeral. He and Will grew up together in the church. He and his family were there for us in our time of trial and it was right and good that I be at his wedding to rejoice with him and his family. So I immediately felt better about going. Going was the right thing to do, even if it wasn't my first choice in activity.
Now, as far as the wedding itself goes…I left feeling really, really old. I’m still trying to sort things out in my mind. I’ll tell you why I felt so “old.” I’ve heard people laughingly say this all my life, “Oh, I guess I’m just old” but I really felt my age Saturday. There’s just this widening generational gap that feels more like a chasm and I’m not sure where I fit. I’m not senile. I don’t even qualify for a senior citizen discount. But now, children the age of my first couple of kids are all grown up and making adult decisions. I am becoming very, very aware that the world they are stepping into is vastly different from the one I stepped into at the same age.
So, the wedding itself was nice. It had a very strong spiritual emphasis. They included foot washing as part of the ceremony, which I had never seen before. The bride and groom were deliriously excited to be marrying eachother and it was sweet to see that. They used real flowers – I liked that, too!
And they fed us an actual meal – also great. And the cake…ama-a-a-zing!
But here’s the word that keeps coming to my mind: immaturity. And then immediately I begin to doubt that and wonder if maybe I’m just old and somewhat stodgy. Maybe I’m mired in tradition and a tad legalistic.
I say that because of a few things. One, the bride’s dress scared me – scared me that it was going to fall right off her chest. It didn’t, but I never breathed deeply the entire time she was up on stage. They played contemporary Christian music for the entire ceremony, including the bride’s entrance and walk down the aisle. I have no problem with that. But the decibel level was SO loud. And I need things louder because of my partial deafness. But this hurt my ears. As soon as they were officially married the music switched to pop music. Is that wrong? No. It’s the kind of music I listen to often, actually. But again, it was SO loud! Ellie needed to find a bathroom after the ceremony so we wandered around the church looking for one and there was no escape from the music. It continued to pulsate and pound. And it bothered me that this was happening in a church – in a good Bible-preaching, evangelistic one. But the next day I was talking to Will and Arien about this and they made the point that our lives should not be separated into “Christian” and “secular.” Either what we do is God-honoring or it is not. If the music was ok to listen to on a car radio then it’s ok for church. That gave me food for thought, although I have yet to come to a definite conclusion. And then there was the fact that after the ceremony they began to flash pictures of the happy couple up on the church screens – including some of the groom shirtless…with a tattoo. And again, that’s not wrong. Culture has changed the meaning of this kind of self-expression. I do not believe that tattoos are not sinful. People would probably be shocked to know that I’ve even toyed with the idea of getting one myself! I probably will not though. In fact, I’m pretty sure I won’t! But I do know people who believe Christians should not have them. I also know Christians who are against any secular music. I know Christians who don’t like Christian music that has any type of beat. I know Christians who think women ought to only ever wear skirts. I know Christians who believe it is wrong to put your kids in public school. I know some Christians believe God frowns on contraception and trick or treating. Others refuse to step foot into movie theaters. And most of these Christians can give you Scriptural back-up for their convictions.
And do you know what these all have in common? They’re so-called “gray” areas. And when an area is not specifically spelled out in Scripture then it is up to a person’s conscience and their relationship with the Lord to determine what the standards will be for themselves and for their family. They don’t have carte blanche to do whatever they like, of course. As Christians, we have a responsibility to study Scripture and apply biblical principles to all areas of life. And most of all, our hearts need to be tender to the Holy Spirit’s moving and be willing, if asked, to give up some of the pleasures of this world we’ve always enjoyed. This can take a lifetime. It’s not going to necessarily be evident when you’re 23 years old and planning your wedding.
But then there’s the “weaker brother” passage in Rom. 14. If you know something offends someone, don’t do it. But how far do you carry that? Some Christians are bound and determined to be offended by everything that doesn’t match their own high and holy standards. So are we to allow them to whine and win every single time? I don’t know. We studied this in our SS class last fall and I don’t know that we ever came to a definitely conclusion. A friend was telling me of an incident that happened about 15 years ago in our church, before we were there. The youth leaders at the time started playing some more contemporary Christian music in youth group and the kids loved it – except for one, who complained to her parents, who then complained to the pastor, who then made the youth leaders stop playing the music, and who were then offended themselves. Who gets to be offended? Who gets to have their way in a situation like that?
Yesterday, a friend who had also attended the wedding began talking to me about it. She is older than me by about 15 years. She agreed with my statement that nothing wrong had been done, but nodded as I explained that I still had kind of an unsettled feeling about the whole thing and was playing with the events in my mind still. She agreed and made the point to me that when you invite a large group of people to an event such as wedding, knowing that most hold to more traditional practices than you, then it’s considerate to take pains to not offend those that might be offended by the way you practice your Christian liberty. I can see this. But again – how far do you take it? I don’t know. Perhaps if we all just took the greatest commandment to heart and truly practiced it (Love your neighbor as yourself) things like this wouldn’t ever even be an issue.
But, I still feel kind of old. The world is a vastly different place than it was in my childhood and even into my college years (the first ones). It seemed to me then that things were more black and white. They were either right or wrong. Maybe they weren’t. Maybe I was just more black and white in my thinking! But, then, I didn’t do a whole lot of thinking, either, while I was married. Paul was so opinionated on everything and so much more spiritual than I, I felt, that it was just easier to go along with nearly everything he was convicted about. But now he’s gone and I’m reasoning things out for myself in a world that reminds me of the inside of a kaleidoscope.
The thing is – even if I do figure out the answers, my kids are already forming their own opinions and may not care to listen to any conclusions I come to. And the divide between the world and the church rapidly continues to narrow – which can be a very good or a very bad thing, depending on how you look at it.
Anyway, I don’t even know where I’m going with all this. Just thinking out loud, I guess. Apparently, Saturday’s events made me think. And that’s never a bad thing. I hope I didn’t come off as critical, because that wasn’t my goal. I suppose if we only ever hung out with people who believe and act exactly like we do, then we’d never actually be challenged in our thinking. The older I get the more I see how much pride has controlled a lot of my thinking and actions over the years. I don’t want to be that way. I don’t want to immediately classify everything that I don’t particularly like as a “sin” because there are room for differences in life and in Christianity. I imagine the answer lies in a continued, growing relationship with the Lord. Perhaps the closer we draw to Him, the fewer questions we will have and maybe a lot of things will even seem less gray.
And along with that, a thought that just struck me is this: maybe we ought not to be asking, “Is this ok?” Rather, we should ask, “Is this the best choice?”
I actually finished this post two days ago. But I have not had time to post it until today. My thoughts were deep a couple of days ago but today they are more along the lines of “What can I make for supper that’s super quick?” and “How many more days can I put off laundry until someone runs out of underwear?” It’s been crazy this week. Tonight I’m going to a football game because I guess Arien is going and I don’t want her to have to sit alone (Will stays in the press box). Tomorrow I have my normal Saturday to-do list, plus I have to work on my final project for my English class that’s due Sunday night, It’s Sam’s birthday tomorrow and in the evening I’m taking the Littles to the Halloween thing at Living History Farms, something we’ve never done before. I may breathe again Monday, although that day is kind of busy, too (dentist appt, meeting with Voc. Rehab and my writer’s group – if I decide to go).