Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Proud Mary and Her Puppets

Our Ainsley was selected to play the part of Mary in her little school's Christmas pageant this season. I wish I could say that as they searched the class over they could find none more blessed among women than her. Instead, I'm pretty sure she got the part because the costume they had fit her the best. In any case, a proud Mary she was.

In truth she didn't really feel especially blessed to have been given this role. On the way out of school the day she'd been given the big casting news (albeit not as big as the first Mary's announcement) she was decidedly unenthused. She said with a sigh, "Well, I'd rather be the donkey because he gets to sit down during the pageant." Of course. Why pick the blessing of all generations when you can be a jackass? Is there really a contest? Mock though I do, I've felt the same way more times than I care to recall.

There have been times when the role I've been assigned in the story of my life was one I wouldn't have chosen first. And I'm sure that's because I knew it would require me to stand. To truly stand firm on the foundation of my faith in a sovereign God even when the road ahead looked terribly treacherous and scary. Botched plans and real heartache looked imminent and had I been given the choice, I would have much rather taken the role where I got to sit down. To sit it out. To leave hope on the floor and not risk the pain or embarrassment if things didn't go according to the plan or role I'd dreamt up for myself. But somewhere along the way I realized that it's not up to me to stand upright all the while. That there's Someone who will steady my shoulders and get me up and over the steepest hills and through deepest caverns. And I'll be the better for it.

And when the scene changes, God raises my hand above my head for me, still gloved and wet from the fight, declaring me victorious. Fight well fought! Struggle overcome. And we both know that I fell more than once. That had I not leaned on Him I'd have sunk to a place I couldn't have escaped without His help. But together we got through. Moved ahead. Overcame. That's the good stuff. The stuff worth standing up for (no matter how tiring) and taking the role chin up. If I'm sitting the whole time (with the other donkeys), besides being decidedly smelly, there's just nothing happening down there. Nothing to be learned or gained. Nothing to make me better.

I'm not sure that Ainsley got such a life changing lesson out of her part in the play, but she did come out the wiser for it. Just last night she pulled out these little finger puppets and proceeded to enact this simple finger puppet play:

Mary:(As the angel hops up next to her) Ahhh! Shrieks in horror.
Angel: Don't be afraid. I bring you special news.
Mary: What?
Angel: You will have a baby and will name him Jesus.
Mary: Can I name him Bob?>
Angel: No, Jesus.
Mary: Bob! (in a shout)
Angel: Jesus! (also a shout)
Mary: Bob!
Enter the alligator puppet,
Mary: Ahhh! Shrieks in horror.
Angel: Mary, I told you not to be afraid.
Mary: I know, I know but don't you see there's an alligator right there?!

I realize that most modern translations of the Bible don't carry the account of the foreboding alligator puppet entering the scene in Nazareth. Or of Mary and Gabriel arguing that the coming Messiah's name should be Bob. But it's a version I can appreciate all the same.

I really loved this story. Mary believed. It took her a second to not freak out when an angel appeared to her teen aged, virgin self and told her she'd give birth to God, as one might expect. But she trusted him very quickly. She bravely said she would do as the Lord desired no matter the great personal cost she would pay.

Then the alligators came. She found herself riding a donkey while nine months pregnant for weeks on end only to wind up in a stinky barn to give birth with nary an epidural in sight. For the love. But it got worse. People wanted to hurt her son. To kill him, even. And she might have felt compelled to remind God that trust is a wee more challenging when a horrendous death is prepared for her beloved child. Of course I trust you but don't you see the alligator that's right there?!

How many times am I just like this? I say that I trust God. I mean that I trust God. Yet when the big challenges of life (the alligators) come on the scene I feel it's urgent that I check to see if God's aware that new characters have emerged and they look pretty awful. That things do look ominous and is He aware of that tail slapping the water like crazy and has He seen those fang teeth?

The thing is, of course, He already knows the alligator is there. And where He sits on heaven's throne the alligator is 1/100th the size of a grain of sand. (Probably smaller but math's never been my strong suit.) And He knows when it's going to leave me alone and how much stronger I'm going to be for having braved my time in the cold water with him swimming all around me. How much less afraid I'll be of smaller prey and schemes the next time around. How I'll be reminded of His protection, His care, His ability to swat my fears away like so much rippling water. How that alligator couldn't have so much as opened its mouth unless God allowed it. He's the dearest and most compassionate playwright and the role He has for each of us is so good. Maybe not always easy but always good.

Oh, how He loves us and cares for our every need without any reminders from us.

Ainsley, blessed among women indeed.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Well, hello there New Year. Welcome! Come and stay a while, or at least for eleven and a half months when you have to leave to make room for your replacement. I'm glad to see you. Didn't mind at all saying goodbye to your predecessor, Mr. 2013. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't the worst year ever or filled with all manner of terrible but there are more than a few things from last year that I am happy to be finished with. I'm looking at you multiple lice infestations and burst water pipe in our sub floor. In truth 2013 was really sweet in many other ways and it sure did end well.

The holidays were some of my favorites so far. And truth be told I don't always anticipate them with tidings of great joy. I do love both Thanksgiving and Christmas so very much. But in the past I've held onto hopes that they'd be something they never could possibly be. Knowing we wouldn't see family I missed so much made me believe disappointment was inevitable. I used to spend time being sad for what the holidays wouldn't be before they were anything at all. But this year it was just time for me to sort of stop waiting for someone else to make our holidays wonderful and instead just make them wonderful myself.

So we did it. We made the holidays intimate and lovely and ours. Our very own. I recognized (for the first time) how precious it is to just be us. Instead of missing everyone we love (and we did and continue to) Yet this time I saw the joy in being our comfortable, tried and true foursome. The joy in not having to navigate around other schedules, palettes, styles, and expectations. And I savored every moment. I truly did. Not once did I long for more. My heart is so very full.

The house was festive for weeks and of course looked that picked up for about three minutes during those 21 days. But they were glorious minutes to be sure! And the girlies, in all their tiny-ness. Ahh, to be little at Christmas is the very best thing to be.

It turns out I have a precious little family. Our little foursome is a force. The girls are getting so big. Growing up more each day. The Ainsley love lost her first tooth and it seemed impossible to believe she was old enough for this milestone.

I promise not to look too far into you, 2014. To enjoy each day of you and really be here. In the moment.