To say that a five year old can be impatient is an understatement. For them, the air is still electrified with constant discoveries assailing their senses in the best of ways. They are Magellan, Marco Polo. And the world awaits. How could they stand still? Why should they?
We adults, on the other hand, have spent several decades in conditioning. Our eyes closing to the wonders around us, and we would-be visionaries grew up to have mortgages and car payments, too many to-dos, toilets to be scrubbed and schedules to keep. We barely have time for sleep, let alone for dreaming. Really dreaming.
A few months ago, my little family and I were standing in line on a soccer field, waiting for my son to have his picture taken. The adults, myself included, were standing and staring, reining in the occasional stray child. The nonconformist rebels.
My son and his little friend were trying so hard to be still. “But Mommy, my body is telling my brain that it just can’t stay still much longer!”
Then, it happened. Her words came out of my mouth, unbidden. My mother telling my son and his friend to sit and look for a four-leafed clover. As she had told me to do countless times in a life long past.
Their bodies were still, for the most part, and their wills were occupied.
The little patch of clover at our feet that I don’t really remember seeing in the first place, was dotted with miscreant dandelions. Pretty patches of yellow in a sweet patch of green. They looked and looked, but never found a four-leaf. But during his search, my son occasionally picked a dandelion or two, and a couple of fragrant clover blossoms, and gave them to me.
“Mommy, I picked these just for you! Will you keep them forever?” Blue eyes hopeful.
“Yes, of course I’ll keep them forever.” A hug and a kiss, and a mother’s hand brushing against his freckled cheek.
I hold onto them for a while, then tuck them into the little side pocket of my purse.
Today, I was looking for something. A boring, grown-up something that I knew was in there somewhere.
Frustrated, I take everything out. Wadded up napkins, receipts, a pen, more receipts and some loose change.
My fingers scrape the bottom seam, and there’s something not a penny, or a Tide stain stick. Something soft and delicate, dry and crumply.
I draw it out. My little wilted waiting bouquet.
It had survived months in the crucible of my life on the go. Pounded down, smothered, by bills and checks and keys and my cell phone. Day. After. Day.
Still, they have color, and fragrance, and shape. Identity.
We were all Magellan once. I think we all are still. Where are you keeping your dreams? Your mind’s occupations? Are they dormant, glazed over by an “I want coffee,” “when will this day be over,” or an “I’m so tired?”
Go. Outside. Breathe Deep. Look for the four-leaves in your life. Look up. Look down. Search. If you don’t find one, it’s okay. You’ll find something else. Just keep your heart open.
Some of the most meaningful conversations between my son and I take place while I’m tucking him in at bedtime. Several weeks ago, he was having a hard time being quiet during nap time at school. One night after a few days of being “clipped down” in class for giggling with his nap-time neighbors, I was trying to encourage him once again to make good choices the next day.
“You can do it, honey. I know you can be quiet at nap-time tomorrow.”
“But, mommy, I’m afraid I can’t.”
“Because when I open my eyes and look at “friend #1,” he always makes me laugh.”
“Hmmmm…well, why don’t you just turn your head the other direction?”
“I do! But “friend #2″ is on that side, and he makes me laugh, too!”
“Well, then just keep your eyes closed until you fall asleep!”
“But, Mommy!! What if I have a bad dream??”
Have you ever felt that trouble followed you no matter what direction you took? You walk down a certain path, and there it is, waiting for you. So, you try to do the right thing and turn to go another way, and what do you know? There it is again. If we can’t escape it, we hope to at least ignore it, but that doesn’t work, either. It finds us.
What are we to do? How do we avoid trouble? I’ll tell you what I told my son when he told me he couldn’t do the right thing because he was afraid he would have a bad dream. His little blue eyes were worried. Anxious over this thing that none of us can control. How could I reassure him? I couldn’t, so I didn’t pretend that I could. “You might have a bad dream, baby. But, you probably won’t. And, if you do, it’ll all be okay because it’s just a dream and it can’t hurt you.”
He was disappointed, but not much. He accepted the truth quickly, and we moved on to a story and a song. The next day, he slept at nap time and didn’t have any bad dreams.
As adults, our concerns are usually more substantial than a bad dream. “Can we pay the rent?” “Can we get a second opinion?” “Can our marriage last?”
Psalm 16:18 says, “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” (niv)
We don’t have to run away from our problems, and we don’t have to try to ignore them. But, if we keep our eyes focused on the Lord, our problems will fall to the periphery of our vision. We will still have to deal with them, because they are not going to disappear, but we won’t have to deal with them on our own. To have God at our right hand means that we trust His council. He is our most special, most trusted advisor. We look to him to guide us through and past our problems and bad dreams.
Is there something you need to turn your eyes away from and put your focus on God?
When I first met my friend Lisa, we had just become co-workers. My personal version of How to Make Friends and Influence People can be summed up in the idea that when you feed people yummy food, they are probably going to like you. So, on my first day in the office, I made a comment that went something like, “Do you guys like to eat? Because I like to cook, and I LOVE to cook Italian food!”
BOOM! Three years (and not as much Italian food as you’d expect) later, and we’re still friends. Our friendship may not be bound by beef braciole, but I’m sure the occasional cannoli or tiramisu shared over cups of cappuccino would not go unnoticed or unappreciated.
You may consider my title a bit hyperbole in nature, but I stand by my words. Allow me to support my statement in the following points:
1. Italian food is perfect before you even order it. All anyone has to do is pronounce the name of an Italian dish to herald its perfection. Pasta primavera, fettuccine alfredo, lasagna, bruschetta, pasta e fagioli, mozzarella caprese, linguine frutti di mare…the syllables beg you to swirl them around in your mouth, savoring them before enunciating and sharing them with the world. Too dramatic, you say? I think no, mi dispiace.
2. Italian food is perfect before you even taste it. You know what I mean. The aroma wafts from the quaint little restaurant downtown – the one with checkered tablecloths and mismatched chairs. Garlic, fresh basil, oregano, and love…melding together to embrace you, leading you to your table, like a siren of the senses.
3. Italian food is perfect from the first bite. The table has been laid with a colorful bounty – fresh bread, herbs in olive oil, pasta and red sauce, or white. Basil pesto in a brilliant green. Meatballs, braised chicken, shrimp. Cheese. Your twirl your fork in a mound of spaghetti or fettuccine, raise it to your lips and close your eyes. Mmm…I think you know what I’m saying. P-E-R-F-E-C-T-I-O-N.
And, I haven’t even started on the dolce (desserts).
As if all that isn’t enough to prove my point, I would like to add that I think Italian food is perfect not just because of how it smells, looks or tastes, but because of how it makes you feel. It’s truly beguiling. It always seems to carry a story – pictures of generations of family eating together, laughing, smiling, loving. Italian food not only carries a story, but offers a promise of better days. And, mama mia, who wouldn’t want that on a plate?
In the past, my mother had expressed concern over what she had to leave for her children. I remember her being disappointed that she didn’t have a lot of “valuables” to pass on, or a large inheritance to divide amongst her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
I would try to reassure her with words like, “Don’t worry mom, you’ve done so much already.” Or, “Mom, that’s not what matters.”
Still, for my generous mother who was a child of the depression, she was worried about supplying our needs far into the future – a future that she would not be able to reach into to help solve our problems.
My mother had known depths of need in her life that most of us are never burdened with experiencing. And she survived. And she made sure we did, too. It may not have always been fun, and it most definitely may not have always been pretty, but we did it. She did it.
Even after giving her family the greatest of gifts – love and inspiration, courage and strength, she worried. Mothers worry 🙂 What kind of legacy could she leave?
A few nights ago, I found my mother’s legacy in the words of my five year old son. As I was tucking him in for the night, stories read and songs sung, it was time for prayers. What had been a nightly request for grandma to feel better had turned into a nightly request for God to tell grandma hi, and that we love and miss her. That night, at that point, shiny little tears started pooling in my baby’s eyes.
“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” I ask.
“I miss grandma,” he answers with the tiniest of sniffs and the biggest, bluest eyes. He looks at me, questioning. Hurting.
“I miss her, too,” I answer as I wrap my arms around him. “Why don’t you tell me something you miss about grandma?”
I smile to myself and in the milliseconds before he forms his answer, I anticipate a flood of responses. Grandma always had Tootsie-Rolls in her candy dish just for him. She and Uncle Jon always had a bird feeder that needed filling, or a hole that needed “dug” with his little plastic gardening set. Freshly baked cookies with milk in his special blue dinosaur cup. Happy memories.
“I miss her loves!” The words burst out and hang in the air, a look of desperate longing in his little face.
My heart is full of surprise and amazement at the depth and authenticity of my son’s wise-beyond-his-years words. He’s walked beyond the Tootsie Rolls and plastic shovels, Christmas presents and quarter bribery for his good behavior into the heart of the matter – into what really matters.
I held him in my arms and agreed that grandma gave the best loves.
“You know, grandma’s loves are up in heaven. That’s part of what God takes with Him when we die. So, all those loves are still there for you.”
He smiles a missing-his-first-tooth little boy smile and starts to blow kisses to heaven, giving some of the love back that had been poured in.
My mother left a legacy greater than riches or material security. She left a legacy of love that will reach far into the future for generations to come. What will you leave behind?
One of my favorite quotes is credited to renowned 19th century playwright Oscar Wilde.
He advised, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
My first husband had a saying, too. A bit more Poe than Wilde, his words were the cautionary, “You can be replaced.”
The glorious truth? I am many things, but replaceable I am not. And neither are you.
Sure, most any woman would be capable of keeping house, running errands, and taking care of things in general. But all the little things that make up who I am are the sum total of my DNA, my life experiences, and how I’ve chosen to respond to those experiences. Never before, and never again will there be another Marilyn Elizabeth Luce Robertson who is like me. I am one of a kind – irreplaceable, for all of time.
Recently having lost my mother to leukemia and congestive heart failure, I have understandably been thinking a lot about life, purpose, and the brevity of our window of influence on our world and fellow man. I’ve been spending some time in the past, remembering good and bad and relishing both because it was real and true and mine – my life with my mother, who was irreplaceable, too.
I have also been thinking about the future. My future as well as the future my mother stepped into just over three weeks ago. I’ve been reading a variety of accounts about heaven by believers and non-believers alike. I even watched a video clip of the transcendent theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking describing his belief on the afterlife, which is that it is non-existent. He explained that he sees the body as a highly complex computer that eventually shuts down. And, when it shuts down, that’s the end of it.
Be assured that I have neither the desire nor the ability to debate Mr. Hawking, one of the premiere minds of the last century at least. No, I will not debate Mr. Hawking. However, me being me, I must beg to enter the conversation in my own way, here on my little blog. I don’t even want to approach the idea of heaven. I want to start with the basics – the belief that we do or do not have a soul, which Mr. Hawking seems to believe that we do not.
I would argue that a computer does not have a presence, as a person does. Any intelligence that it has, has been created on it’s behalf. It does not have a hunger for knowledge or a need for relationships. It doesn’t dream of flying or exploring beyond the stars. It does not know jealousy, compassion or love. Even advances in artificial intelligence are only the product of man’s invention and intervention. I do not see the logic in using the creation to define the creator. Even we Christians do not do that. We believe we were made in God’s image, and we strive to reflect His character. It’s not the other way around.
About now, I am guessing that you are asking yourself what Stephen Hawking’s spiritual view has to do with Oscar Wilde and my ex-husband. Where is Marilyn going with this? Don’t worry, I have a plan 🙂
One of my favorite laws of physics states that two forms of matter cannot occupy the same space at the same time. When a computer dies, we put it in the trash, take it to a recycling center, or stow it in the garage to save for parts. It does not transform of it’s own accord. Unlike, say, a star. When a star dies, it changes form and in most cases, it eventually explodes, sending all the things that it once was out into the galaxy.
If I had to explain the spiritual side of death scientifically, I think I would do it this way. When a person dies, everything they were goes someplace else, not totally unlike a star. When I explained it to my 5 year old son, I told him that when Grandma died, God gave all the parts of her that belonged to the earth back to the earth, and that He took all the parts of her that He breathed into her, like her personality and charisma, her humor and love, all the things that made her irreplaceable, back to heaven with Him.
I think that makes a lot more sense. Sorry, Mr. Hawking. Even Transformers believe in the AllSpark.