Thursday, March 24, 2011

Really Left Behind

I think I can pinpoint the day my biological clock started ticking. I wasn't very old - perhaps 25 - and I certainly didn't understand what was behind it all, but suddenly, one morning, as I watched the Today Show before work I saw a story about the near extinction of the Kemp's ridley sea turtles.  And as I watched hundreds of motherless baby turtles hatch and make their way toward the ocean, I started to cry.

I think I started preparing for motherhood in that moment - I knew that any children I ever had would never really be mine. They would be independent creatures with a calling and destiny all their own. And, weird as it sounds, I began to grieve their departure before they were ever born.

These sea turtles, for those of you who don't know them, are still the most endangered turtle species in the world, with only an estimated 1,000 females of nesting age left. These sea turtles mainly live in the Gulf of Mexico, and though much has been done to protect them over the last 30 years, they simply aren't rebounding. Still, with the dogged will to survive of most living things, the mother turtles, approximately 2 feet in diameter, drag their 100 pounds ashore, dig a nest and lay about 140 eggs every third year or so. Then, they bury the eggs in the sand and return to the sea, leaving behind their future offspring.  About 60 days later, the babies emerge from their shells and instinctively begin making their way toward the water with their very first uncertain steps.

I am still not sure whether I wept for mother turtles who never saw their babies or for baby turtles left to face life alone from their very first breath.  I recognized that it was sacred.  Parenthood is a sacred gift, whatever its form. Some of us are conventional parents - birthing children and raising them to adulthood. Some of us are birth parents, loving our children enough to give them a better life than we can offer. Others of us are adoptive parents, shaping life for a child we love as fiercely as any we might ever birth. And some of us parent children who will be, forever, children. There are as many ways to parent as there are nesting mothers turtles.  No matter the form, sooner or later we will all have to let go.

At the Padre Island National Seashore you can pay for the privilege of escorting the baby turtles safely to the water.  That's what you do, dear parents.  You pay, in love, in fear, in tears, for the privilege of escorting your children to the water.  Sacred water.   Where they can be marked with the cross of Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit. Forever.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Making Space for God

I recently read an article that explained Lenten fasting to children.  The author called it "Making space for God." I really love this description.  What a positive spin on fasting.  It's like turning down a third helping of mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving so you will have room for pie.  Skipping one good thing in favor of another.

In my childhood home, we didn't give things up for Lent, we added them.  We added Wednesday night church and it seems like evening devotions went on a little longer during Lent.  At some point in my 20s I decided to try giving things up instead.  I can't really come down on either side of this debate - adding or subtracting things works equally well for me.  Over the past decades I've experimented with a lot of things.  I've given up sweets, sodas, cigarettes, meat, reading fiction and eating out.  I've added a special devotional time to my day or a specific service to others.  I've studied books and learned hymn verses and kept journals using prescribed scripture prompts.  They have all served me well at making space for God.  Some of them, like cigarettes, have become permanent fasts.  Others, like learning hymn verses, are woven into my unconscious being, only to surface when I most need them.

This year I've decided to turn off the television.  I don't really watch it anyway.  Most of the time it's on for background noise, so the sacrifice isn't huge, but the potential space it creates for God to enter is enormous.  Six weeks isn't that long but perhaps God will come into that space and rearrange my mental furniture a bit.  It could really use a change.  And maybe then I can vacuum under some of those assumptions that have been cluttering up my thinking, and discard a few broken ideas I keep meaning to mend but never do. . .  God may have other plans for the space.  I'll have to wait and see.

Families can fast collectively if they want.  It's a wonderful opportunity for creating teachable moments.  Maybe your fast can be a weekly choice, like fish on Fridays, or giving up your pizza night and donating the unspent money to a food pantry.  Or it can be a small daily change like giving up dessert or bottled water.  You may want to try walking more or making your own bread.

Whatever you choose, try it until Easter.  Look for the faith moments created by your change.  You may not even see them now, but they will show up someday.  Give God an inch and you'll get a mile in return.  

Blessings on your Lenten journey.  I hope these 40 days will bring you a greater awareness of God at work in you and in the life of your family.  Feel free to share your stories here!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Time Marches On

The last few weeks have been crammed with anniversaries:

  • This is my 52nd entry in this blog. That means a whole year has gone by. I'm not sure how that happened - I still feel like a total newcomer to this endeavor. I feel like I should have something profound to say about it but no exquisitely meaningful phrases come to mind. 
  • Monday was my birthday - another indicator of the passage of time. I can now order off the senior menu at IHOP and take advantage of those smaller portion sizes. I guess that’s a good excuse to keep marking the passage of time. 
  • Over the weekend I participated in a women's retreat and spent a good part of Saturday evening with a guitar in my hands (something I had not done in a long time) playing and singing songs from my formative years. Lots of John Denver and the Beatles and Bob Dylan. It was a shock to realize that the copyrights to most of these songs are over 40 years old; and equally shocking that I have played the guitar badly for over 40 years. How good would I be today if I had practiced every day of those 40 years? 
  • Ten years ago this week I quit smoking. And I haven't cheated even once, but I can still remember the last one clearly. 
  • Twenty-one Februarys ago I had the chicken pox on Valentine's Day. I really thought I might die.
What all of these things have in common is that they feel like they happened last week. Time rushes by me like a stream running downhill, and I have absolutely no power to stop it. It runs through my fingers like water, no matter how carefully I cup my hands.

A friend of mine is fond of saying "you can give someone their money back but you can't ever give their time back." I can't give you back the time you've spent reading my blog, but I hope I have used that time to help you remember that these days with your children are short. Think about it. The days from birth to age 18 number less than 7,000. Subtract time spent sleeping and you are left with fewer than 5,000. Take away the school days and you have them for about 3,500 - only half of the time they've been alive. And that is the most time you'll get with nearly any of your children. Once they leave home you'll get very few of the 365 days in each year. Waste no time dreading the future; treasure the minutes, the hours, the days you have with them now and be fully present with them whenever possible. You can enjoy the memories later.

Time marches on. Only God who was and is and is to come has unlimited days. Each one you get is precious; savor it!