Saturday, January 08, 2011

Lesson from Life, 3

"Life is difficult. This is the great truth, one of the greatest truths—it is a great truth because once we see this truth, we transcend it." M. Scott Peck

Early in our marriage, before children, Ed and I did some hiking, camping, and mountain climbing. Hiking in the mountains was always an adventure.
We had to be in pretty good shape because of the altitude and the terrain. Our bodies would still get weary. We would be going up an incline, not sure how far it was to the top, then we would reach a plateau.

Donna hiking in Colorado, circa 1970's
What a relief! The strain on our muscles and our lungs would diminish. We could walk on level ground for awhile, but there was always another hill to climb, a never ending series of jagged points to transcend.

Why did we go through such strain on our bodies?

Regardless of the physical strain, the beauty of the journey made it worth the work.

Did we go on those hikes thinking it would be easy? No, we were smarter than that. We knew we would have tight lungs and burning legs. We did it anyway.

Was it worth it? You bet. Thoughts of those days bring joy to my heart and gratitude in my soul for the experience. The experience was worth the work.

I don't always approach life the same way. I don't know if it is our highly developed industrialization and technology, but for some reason, I think we shouldn't have so many struggles and painful experiences.

I remember what a shock life was in my 20's. I thought I had it figured out. I knew I would be successful, be a perfect wife with a perfect home. I came face to face with the fact that much of what I thought I knew wasn't working.

In a past ministry, I had the opportunity to see college students come and intern with us during the summer. I watched them look for "the key" to life and happiness. Some came to realize that there isn't a key. Life is a journey of hard places and plateaus. No matter how hard we work we will still have steep, hard climbs when we can't see where we are going.

As I go through this period of grief after the loss of my mother, I think about what a lousy system we have on earth. We experience great joy with a new birth, but great grief when life leaves. The cycle is inevitable.

Then I am reminded that we were not created for this world. God's intention is for us to live eternally. When we lose sight of our eternal nature, the difficulty of this life overwhelms us. We live in a fallen world that is difficult. As M. Scott Peck reminds us, the sooner that realize and accept that life is difficult, the less difficult it becomes. We quit expecting things to be different. We enjoy the journey, however it looks or feels, knowing the peaks offer incredible views of life. God promises us that He will give us the strength for the climb.

The same concept applies to marriage. Many people encounter that unrealistic expectation in marriage without seeing the beauty of the journey together (see my article). Marriage takes work, but don't forget the fun (re: lessons from life,2) The marriage journey challenges me over and over, but my "marriage legs" are getting stronger. The climb is not as hard; we enjoy more plateaus and scenic look-outs than I would have ever envisioned.

Life is difficult, accept it, and enjoy the view.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Lessons from Life, 2

Fun is important!

I know that doesn't sound terribly deep or mature. But it's true. You may be saying "duh!" But if this truth were so widely known, why do so many people neglect having fun in their marriages?

Maybe it's my age, but sometimes when I get home from work, my brain hurts. I just need to go to bed or veg out in front of the TV, or laugh for awhile.

I can be a very serious person. Ed says I have a mad look on my face when I am working on my computer. Sometimes, I AM mad at my computer, but usually I am just concentrating really hard. It takes all my remaining brain cells to keep the upper hand with the demons behind the screen. When I am not on the computer, I am listening to people talk about the tragedy or crises in their lives. Some are truly tragic, some are not tragic at all, they just aren't happy.

We see so many marriages that become so tense. Something happened from the wedding to living real life. They get caught up in working, making ends meet or building a career. They buy a house, have children. And along the way, they forgot to have fun together as a couple.

Ed and I had seven years together before we had children. We spent time building our friendship, having fun, just the two of us. I learned to play golf and go fishing with him. He learned what the inside of an art museum looks like. We both loved to go camping and hiking (our younger days!).

A few years into parenthood, we realized that we weren't taking time to have fun together.
We revived the old habits again. We started "dating" again. We made sure that we got away on at least a short vacation together, just the two of us. When the kids were still small, we might only go two or three hours away - Dallas for a couple of days or Grand Lake to play golf. As they got bigger, we went farther - the Caribbean, Chicago, NYC, Italy.

This last year has been tough. Because of my mom's illness, we didn't take a vacation. The dates became a refuge and refreshment. Fun doesn't have to break the bank or take elaborate planning. Everyone has his own flavor of fun; it comes in many varieties.

My inner nerd wants to make everything an educational experience. But Ed and I didn't marry because of time we spent learning together. We got married because we enjoyed each other and had fun together - we went to movies, to eat at delicious Cajun food, had picnics at plantations. The fun continues today, just in different ways.

Fun is important in life and in marriage. A life lesson.

Monday, January 03, 2011

New Year and Lessons from Life

A new year.... new thoughts ..... new life.

As I pass from a very difficult year, I am praying for new ways to share my thoughts and the new life Christ has given me.

Since my mother passed away recently, I thought about calling my new series "lessons learned from my mother." However, I realized that many of my lessons on life were not learned from my mother, I learned them the hard way. I thought about calling it "letters to my children," but my children have heard enough from me to last a lifetime. So, I will call them Lessons from Life.

While teaching our Bible study class yesterday, we talked about the different ways people learn - by reading, by observing, by failure, by pain, by mentoring or being mentored. I have been fortunate enough to learn all of those ways.

The pivotal concept is LEARNING. To learn I have to be teachable. Am I teachable? Sometimes more than others. I tend to be a bulldog when I set my teeth into finding a solution to a problem. I don't give up. To the distress of my family members, I often want them to learn the same lessons with me .... whether they want to or not.

To be teachable, I have to admit I am wrong or that I have made a mistake or that I don't know something.

Have you ever seen someone that thinks that they know something about everything? Or someone that will never admit that they are wrong? Or someone who won't take responsibility for their mistakes? I have been all of those people at some time.

As soon as the first sin happened in the garden an unhealthy pattern of living began. In Genesis 3:11-12, we see God inquiring about what was going on, much as a parent would to their children.

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Adam started the blame game. He blamed Eve and he blamed God for giving Eve to him. We all play that game at times. But when I blame others for what happened, I am not admitting that I did anything wrong. If I am blaming others, how teachable am I? None, not at all, nil. Not a healthy way to live, you won't win friends or influence people with that attitude.

My first Lesson from Life - admit when I am wrong or don't know or have messed up. Take responsibility. All humans make mistakes. No human knows everything. I am part of the human race and will act like other human beings often.

Unlike the human part of me, I have a supernatural part which can transcend these mistakes and be renewed and restored. I can learn and grow in my faith and in my practice.

Bottom line - it's okay to make mistakes. Now learn and grow.