“Eat, drink, and be guilty!” Oh, that’s not what Ecclesiastes 8:15 says, is it? The real quote from Solomon is: “So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry; for this will remain with him in his labor all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun.” (NKJV)
This passage struck me yesterday for three reasons. In the morning I lounged on a beach chair with my toes in the sand under the ninety-degree sun of Ocean City, Maryland. In the afternoon, I sat at my favorite ice cream parlor eating a coffee and coconut ice cream hot-fudge sundae (with a double order of hot fudge and whipped cream). With the delights of the sun and the deliciousness of the sundae, I should have been merry. There were moments of merriness on the beach and in the booth, but guilt worked overtime to sabotage my enjoyment. “Shouldn’t you be doing something productive instead of wasting your time staring at the ocean ?” “Do you know how many calories are in that cute little 1950’s stainless steel ice cream dish?”
Why is so difficult for me to savor the joys of the moment? There are many passages in Scripture that admonish me to be careful about the joys of the flesh. But why do I give them more credence than the passages of freedom and merriment? It feels a little ungrateful. I have one more day to test the delights of sun, sand, and sundaes. Do I dare try for an encore performance of fudge-laden scoops of ice cream sans the maraschino cherry and guilt. Probably not. But at least I will look back at yesterday with a smile and a great big “Thank you, God.”
Last week in the woods of Idaho, I picked huckleberries. After a tedious, 5-mile, hour-long drive up a bumpy dirt road, friends Kate and Chris, husband Andy, and I arrived at the top of a mountain with empty plastic bags and a taste for huckleberry pie in our mouths and our imaginations. At first it looked like the bears had beaten us to the berries. But after 20 minutes of scrounging we each found bushes laden with dozens of the wild blueberry-like fruit. The picking followed a rhythm–a few in the mouth, a dozen in the plastic bag. I imagined I was in the midst of one of my favorite childhood books, Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey.
We were on vacation without calendars or meetings. On the top of the mountain, there was no opportunity for texting or folding laundry or working. There was only the sunshine, the magnificent view of the glacial lake, the berries, and the spontaneous outbursts of gratitude and praise. I love those serendipitous moments when my body is active and my mind is still, when what happens is a prayer time I could not have planned or arranged.
For two hours of picking time we gathered 8 cups of berries–just enough for two pies. I made the crust, Kate cooked the filling, Andy bought the ice cream, and Chris set the table. With a mountain-top experience and feast at the bottom of the mountain, I could not have asked for a better day. Hallelujah! Thanks be to God.
Whenever I pray in color or pray in any other way, distractions come. Maybe other people are not so prone to these outbreaks of attention loss; but I like to think I’m not alone in this dilemma.
In my prayer drawings/doodles, I now include the distractions as part of the picture. Down at the right-hand corner of the paper, I have a list of words. Whenever a recurring thought pops into my head, I write it in the parking lot for distractions–an expression my friend Kathy coined to name the box designed for my verbal prayer intrusions. Most of the time the list includes things like: buy basil, pay the power bill, write an article, send a birthday card to ________….
Last Sunday at a workshop I co-facilitated outside of Seattle, I led participants through a Praying in Color exercise. We were all drawing and praying on our pieces of paper for people we had named aloud. I drew at an easel in front of the whole group. During the prayer time, ideas of things I wanted to share with workshop participants about Praying in Color popped into my head. I wrote them in the parking lot. Because I wrote them down I could let them go and continue to pray.
Then I became aware of another distraction. This one wasn’t about the workshop or some practical task I needed to do. I was having an open bout of resentment. It had nothing to do with anything related to the day or the workshop. It was unfinished feelings about a recent experience in my life. I didn’t want to ignore the resentment, but I didn’t have the time to deal with it. I needed to be present for the workshop. So I wrote the word RESENTMENT in capital letters in the parking lot. Unlike some of the practical things in my parking lot, it’s not some task I can complete and check off at the end of a prayer time. But it is something I want to address head-on. Writing down the word RESENTMENT will keep it from sneaking up on me unbidden. With some long-term therapy with God I will deal with it.
Okay, so after 24 hours in 11 day-old Clara’s presence, I admit to a little bit of cheek-munching and a tad bit of besmittenness. Besmittenness is not even a real word, I’m sure, but neither do the silly lyrics and tunes I’ve been singing to Clara qualify as real songs. I’m enjoying the somewhat surrealistic kingdom of grandparenthood I find myself in.
In Scripture, there is a small amount of advice for parents about rearing children. But instructions for grandparents are non-existent. I wish there were some practical tips like: “Only speak to your grown children when spoken to.” or “Do the dishes, make the meals, and wash the dirty clothes without being asked.” or “Honor the unique way the next generation is parenting and loving their child.”
I looked up grandfather and grandmother in the on-line concordance and Bible study tool I use. The word grandfather appears a few times in the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible. Grandmother popped up a similar number of times but also in 2Timothy in the New Testament. Paul writes to Timothy, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2Timothy1:5 NIV) I like this passage because my children’s grandmother is named Lois, and she is a woman of sincere and deep faith. Maybe this is my subtle Biblical instruction. Besides just offering songs, clean diapers, and cheek-munching to Clara, I can be a grandmother of sincere faith.
11-day old Clara in the crook of my knee
Ten days ago I became a grandmother. Today I will meet my first grandchild, Clara Mae.
For several years friends have been saying, “I bet you can’t wait to be a grandmother.” I have to admit a recurrent cringe at this comment. I have loved the carefree adult relationship I have had with my son and daughter-in-law.
As a woman in my early twenties, I often heard the question. “When are you going to have a baby?” Call it weird, but I was not one of those teen-aged girls who loved babysitting and couldn’t wait to be a mother. Holding a fully-inflated basketball was far more interesting to me than holding a ten-pound person in a onesie. My slow journey into motherhood was the result of an evolving relationship with my husband and our longing to expand the circle of our love to include children.
I may be by nature “baby-gushing challenged.” I don’t see a baby and instantly go into what my friend Sharon calls “cheek-munching” mode. I watch grandparents who spend every second of their vacation visiting their grandchildren and the rest of the time hauling out their brief-case sized photo wallets full of baby pictures. I see this besotted behavior, and I get scared. Will I too become a bonafide member of the grandparent cult?
Only twelve hours and thirteen minutes until I hop a plane to meet my granddaughter. Against my will, I have to admit a growing excitement. When I look at the pictures of my son holding newborn Clara, I see a young man hopelessly in love. And I remember how crazy in love I was with the tiny baby who has just become a father.
“Then our mouths were filled with laughter, and our tongues with songs of joy. The LORD has done great things for us and we are glad indeed.”
When I’m in the dumps, I don’t want a trip to Disney World, a fancy dinner out, or the prescribed cure of my mother’s generation–a new hat. A few small, simple rituals can change the course of my ill-temper and my dark spirits. Here are a few of my serotonin-enhancing activities.
1 Watering houseplants
2 Taking a walk
3 Pulling weeds
4 Singing a 1 or 2 line song over and over again
5 Searching the yard for flowers and greens to fill five little turquoise vases on my dining room table
6 Writing a note or e-mail to a friend
7 Drinking a glass of iced tea on the front steps
8 Falling asleep on the front porch with a book
When the darkness is too big for these little moments of holiness I go for the big guns cure: I fall spread-eagle, face-down on the floor and ask for God’s help.
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