Friday, August 16, 2013

Bridal Joy

Hubby's sister is getting married tomorrow, and our family is pretty overjoyed about it. Even my nine year old cries happy tears when she encounters pictures of her aunt and almost-uncle together, or when she hears a romantic song that makes us think of them. It's pretty funny from a girl who still thinks boyfriends are yucky (thank you, Jesus). 

My sis-in-law is the last one in her immediate family to get married, and we have all prayed for her to find a special man who will cherish her. I personally am so proud of all she has accomplished as a single woman -- leading small groups at our church, developing solid friendships with other women of integrity, putting herself through culinary school, having a successful career both as a pastry chef and now in design. I went from my father's house to my husband's like a girl from the 1950s and have never supported myself that way. I think we are most proud of her for holding out for the right one. But woven in my joy and pride for who she is and what she means to our family as sister, friend and amazing Auntie, I have felt her pain: she wanted a companion to share her life with, and she wanted to become a mother. 

And so, we are very excited, and caught up in the romance of love fulfilled. The struggle of the search for love makes finding it all the sweeter. When she walks down the aisle to Van Morrison's "Someone Like You" (I've been waiting...for someone like you...) we will probably all bawl like babies.

I have felt a particularly sweetness over the last few weeks as I've watched the bride and groom laugh, plan and celebrate together. Because they are celebrating what I have had for 14 years (or 18 if you count when I first met my husband). I only had to wait until I was 21 to meet the love of my life, and marry him. We have traveled together and bought a house. We have two gorgeous, healthy children. And we are fulfilling our vows, as life fulfills it's promise to give us both sides of them (plenty and want, joy and sorrow, health and sickness). 

It's so, so easy to take it all for granted. The romance in our marriage sometimes feels as faded as the sage green in our Ralph Lauren towels that we got for wedding gifts. (Side note, I would like to get married again just for loot. I really need new flatware. All my spoons have been eaten up by the garbage disposal and Crate and Barrel has discontinued them so I can't get more.)

But imagining what it would have been like without Jeff for the last 15 years is, well, unimaginable. I was spared so much struggle and heartache by being with my man of integrity early in my life, growing up with him, really. I am truly, still crazy about the man I married. I think it might even be safe to say that he adores me, too. I can't imagine a life I would rather have had. So though we may not make the other guests weep with joy when they see us cheek to cheek on the dance floor tomorrow, I just might weep with joy for myself. 

So congratulations to the bride and groom. We're crazy happy for you, and thank you for reminding us how happy we are, too. May God bless all your years ahead, with peace, joy, babies, and the ability to be grateful for it all.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Adventures in the Mid-30s

Last month I celebrated my 36th birthday by being stung by a jellyfish and capsizing with my 9 year old daughter in an ocean kayak. 

It was a great day. 

Hubby and I took the kids for a five-day-long beach vacation in north San Diego, and we had big plans. We packed two surf boards, two kayaks, three boogie boards, four bicycles, my brand new black and hot pink wetsuit, half a bottle of gin and some limes. We chose hotel for it's location on what and Sunset magazine  extolled as a great beach for beginner surfers. We called it Anderson Family Surf Safari.

We knew going in that the beach was famous for sting rays, so we taught the girls to do the Sting-ray Shuffle (dragging your feet in the sand thereby gently disturbing the rays rather than surprising them and incurring their wrath). We did not count on jellyfish. 

In my first 45 minutes of attempting to surf the foam of what turned out to be slightly rougher waves than we planned on, a purple striped jellyfish drifted between my legs and gave me a sting the size of a human hand on the back of both my delicate little knees. I leaped from the water and did the Jelly-fish Trot up the long beach, past my watching daughters who thought perhaps Mommy had lost her marbles, to the lifeguard tower. Three unconcerned first aide professionals said, "You'll be fine. Get back in the water. Salt is the best thing." 

When you've just been stung by an ocean animal you didn't even see, the last thing you want to do is get back in the ocean. But I obeyed, and it did help. 

Concealing the sting from my five year old, we took a break for lunch. 

Two hours later, we were back at it. My husband spend 30 minutes inflating our kayaks, and then ended up standing on the shore with our wailing five year old, who was not going over the waves in that bendy boat for anything. Smart girl. Meanwhile I pushed my precious eldest out through the surf, losing my cover-up, hat and snorkel mask from the front of the kayak in the third wave. But we made it out past the breakers and paddled around for about five minutes, then decided to rejoin the other half of our family.

Again, third time's the charm: in the third wave back we flipped over, resurfaced, scrambled for the remaining objects of clothing that were floating away from us, and made it back to the sand. 

After that, we took a break for gin and tonics with lime. 

What a great birthday! Even if I was taking Advil the next day for muscle aches. I may be slipping down the slope toward 40, people, but I am going down kicking. Any woman who tells me they don't see each decade birthday as a kind of watershed is either lying or has yet to turn 30. I know, because I used to say I didn't care about getting older until I turned 30. Maybe ocean kayaking and taking up surfing smacks a little of desperation -- and I did, literally get smacked around on my birthday -- but I'll take desperation over passivity any day. 

Truthfully, I am really digging 36. This year, both my kids are going into full-day school, giving me a little more time for self discovery, and possibly even keeping a cleaner house. By the time I'm 46, one will be in college, and the other 16. I could start a whole new career in 10 years, and still have decades to do it. Meanwhile, I have a decade to dream up what that will be. I am so, so blessed. Also, my husband and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary just before my  birthday. I look back and feel grateful to have spent my youth with a man I love so much. 

Jeff and I are now dreaming up next year's vacation, this time without the kids, in honor of our 15th anniversary. I told him I don't want to just go sit on a beach somewhere; let's have another adventure. I'm thinking maybe cycling in the wine country. To date I have not proved highly skilled on a bicycle, but what the heck. I'll bring the Advil.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Be Good

Around the time I hit adolescence, my mom developed the practice of following me to the front door whenever I was leaving the house and calling after me, "Be good!" If I was departing on a date, she sometimes went so far as to follow me and the teenage boy I was with to the front gate and shouting, "Be good!" as we  got into the car.

What she meant by this you can imagine. Don't drive too fast. Don't see a forbidden rated R movie. Don't make out in the back seat of the car. (Well, two out of three isn't bad, Mama.) I thought - and continue to believe - that it was pretty funny. But I also think it influenced me, that last desperate attempt my mom made to remind me who I was, what I knew was right and what was expected of me.

I find myself doing something similar now that I'm a mom. When I drop the kids off at a friend's house, or camp, or school, my version is, "Have fun and be good!" Or sometimes, "Learn something, have fun, remember your manners and be good!"

My girls, ages five and 9, already think it's funny when I do this, and not just because I often do it in E.T.'s voice with my finger outstretched. "Beeee goooood."

I want my girls to exhibit goodness: be kind, loving, honest, compassionate, just, generous. My instructions to them are always along these lines, and my prayers.

I find my prayers are also full of this odd request of God: I also say to God often, "Be good."

This sounds pretty ridiculous when I write it in black and white, but I'm concerned about God's goodness. Fundamental to my faith as a Christ-follower is that there is an almighty God who created the universe and told us about Himself through prophets who recorded what they heard. One of the main things God says about Himself that is that He is good. His goodness is His very nature, and also the way He acts: he does good. He is just, hating evil and righting wrongs. But also, abounding in love, compassionate, slow to anger, merciful. 

But I wonder about all these things. Or perhaps more accurate and honest is that I doubt God's goodness. Because this world stinks in a lot of ways. God is good. The state of the world is not. The Bible's more eloquent way of saying this is that the world is fallen, broken and groaning as a woman in childbirth until the time when God puts all things to right again.So I dialogue with God about what He is up to, and why.

It turns out I am not alone in feeling this way. It's recorded in the book of Genesis that Abraham asked God the same thing. God was about to exercise judgement on a city, and Abraham was afraid God might go overboard, judging people who didn't deserve it. Abraham asked him, "Can the Lord of Heaven do wrong?" God promises to save the city if there is even one righteous man in it, reminding Abraham that He is just.

Moses has the same kinds of conversations with God, reminding Him of His promises to Israel. So does David in the Psalms, urging God to defend His people, protect the righteous, right wrongs, show all the world who He is. In other words, David tells God to be who He says He is.

I'm grateful that these conversations with God have been recorded for me, giving me permission to talk to my Father this way. I beg God to be not only just but merciful. I remind God that He calls himself a father to the fatherless, defender of orphans and widows. That He is not willing for anyone to perish, but all to be saved. He is a God so big that the sun and moon obey him, and yet so devoted to His creation that He sees every sparrow and knows the number of hairs on each of our heads.

But of course, He doesn't need to be reminded. I do. I need to feel in my heart and believe in my head that God can be trusted with the universe, because I certainly can't make sense of it. One of my friends posted this scripture on facebook today:

Just as you don’t know the way of the wind
or how bones grow in a pregnant woman’s womb,
so you don’t know the work of God,
the maker of everything.
Ecclesiastes 11:5 

My understanding of how God's goodness is being played out in the universe is so limited, and won't be expanded much in the foreseeable future. So these conversations I'm having with are just about increasing my trust in God by giving Him the opportunity to reassure me. I may have quoted this passage in a blog before because I love it so much, but in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little Town on the Prairie, Laura marvels at her blind sister Mary's confidence in the goodness of God. Her faith transcends circumstances and gives her real peace.

Everyone knows that God is good. But it seemed to Laura then that Mary must be sure of it in some special way. 
"You're sure, aren't you?" Laura said. 
"Yes, I am sure of it now all the time," Mary answered. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."

God, grant me that certainty. Be good.