A gift to generations

Today’s Haiku Friday is about gift-giving, so I thought I would cross-list my entry:

 

Caked with biscuit dough,
still – she never took it off:
A grandmother’s ring.

Depression-era
sacrifice to cherish dear –
till death did they part.

Passed down to a bride
who wore it for fifteen years.
(Rings outlast marriage.)

And so, the band waits
for love to find it again –
bare hand to adorn.

What I’m not

I had the opportunity to meet a new mentor recently via email (though I hope to meet her in person at a conference later this spring). As I thought about what I wanted to discuss with her, I realized that one of my biggest frustrations is the fact that everywhere I turn, I feel like I have to prove myself. I have to justify my research and scholarship (understandably so). I have to put up with deer-in-the-headlights expressions when people find out about my family (understandable, but annoying). I just want to put forth my best effort and show the world that I can’t be sterotyped. I want my work to stand on its own merit, regardless of any other factors.

So, I wrote the following statement, as a mantra to myself. You might consider it a soapbox, but I think it’s more of an affirmation of who I am and what I’m not.

I wear numerous hats and fulfill several roles. I am a lot of things, but one thing I will not be is stereotyped. I may not be much of a wave-maker, but I darn sure will be a mold-breaker. I am not who I used to be, and I’m still becoming who I am. Maybe you don’t know how I handle it because you don’t have to, and I’m learning to. I am stronger and braver than I ever imagined I could be, because I’ve needed to be. If you want to be certain that I will accomplish something, just tell me that I am unable to do it.When you’re finished ranting about how it can’t be done, please step aside. Just watch me, and eat your words.

Purposeful life

I’ve questioned the notion before that life will work out hunky-dory, if only we love God and behave ourselves, because, at the risk of sounding like a pessimist, I just don’t believe that we are guaranteed happy endings. For as long as I can remember, well-meaning religious people have been quoting Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV).

What they leave out, however, is the next verse, which talks about being “… conformed to the image of his Son,” namely, Jesus. The chapter goes on to say that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love, and that is true, but it doesn’t mean things will be easy-breezy.

I realize that Jesus (and his uncannily blonde mother, Mary, for that matter), look like well-groomed models who just stepped out of a Pantene commercial in the paintings, but Jesus led a hard life. Besides the fact that such everyday luxuries as motor vehicles, air conditioning and Crocs had not yet been invented, Jesus was not wealthy by any stretch, and he was insulted, ignored, betrayed and ultimately killed. He apparently lost his earthly dad sometime in his teens or 20s. His own neighbors rejected his message.

We all have many, many blessings for which to be thankful.  I have experienced exquisite joy in life; please don’t get me wrong and think that I’m raining on the religion parade. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t think our lives are just about us. I don’t think that life is just about my accomplishments and dreams and the legacy that I leave behind. What about people who die without a so-called legacy? What about the young mother who dies of cancer, or the stillborn baby or the elder who lives alone? I’ve just been struggling with the idea that sometimes, life’s purpose may be larger than us. Our lives are part of a bigger picture, and not necessarily portraits, in and of themselves.

Consider Job’s first batch of children: he had seven sons and three daughters. In a freak windstorm, all 10 of them were crushed to death in a house collapse. That tragedy was just one of a litany of calamities that happened to Job. If you read the whole story, you learn that God restored his family and gave him 10 more children later in life. (Which, by the way, makes me think that perhaps giving birth to 20 children was part of his wife’s punishment for telling Job to curse God and die (Job 2:9-10), but I digress.)

Were the lives of Job’s first 10 children pointless? For lack of a better term, they really just seem like pawns in the overall strategy. That’s a tough pill to swallow, to think that my life might simply be a lesson illustration. I want to accomplish great feats in life, but what I’ve been learning in recent years, as trials and detours keep chipping away at my pride, is that I need to be content with whatever God has in store for me. Sometimes, my goals don’t pan out the way I expect them do, but that doesn’t mean that I should hang it all up and quit trying. I will keep striving, pursuing and reaching toward my dreams, and I will thank God for letting me play a role, however significant – or not – in his story.