Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Five-year-old on Ice Skates – A Story of Determination

“Will you please come ice skating with me, KK?” JB said as he cocked his gap-model head accented with puppy dog eyes at me. Um, how could I say no to that? My plans of coffee shop lounging/espresso sipping/Internet surfing/job searching flew away like that piece of trash you didn’t mean to let slip out of the car window on the freeway. Woops. So I laced up my five dollar rental skates, prepared to hold this adorable five-year-old’s hand as we glided across the ice together, eventually being able to experience the joy of letting go of the gripping hand to see him find his own feet on the ice – the idea being for him to skate without my help and being able to enjoy the fruit of my labors. Reality check - not going to happen, KK. With strength of mind, JB let me tie his skates on, then headed across the rubber mats to take his first step onto the ice. The poor disillusioned child thought it would be a cinch. On his way to the rink, someone greeted him with a “Hi, JB! How are you?” He didn’t flinch but responded determinedly, “I can’t talk right now, I’m just concentrating.” I followed close behind as the metal blade of his skate met the ice and his idea of how easy this would be began to slip out of his mind, unable to stay in place despite his mental attempts at keeping it there. He flailed like a fish out of water, making desperate attempts to keep himself vertical by holding onto the wall of the rink with one hand, and my hand on the other side. My continuous exhortations to take it slow, to put one foot in front of the other, never made it past his cute little head of silky brown hair. Instead of gently easing his skates forward one at a time, he insisted on jerking them backwards in a fast, repetitive motion, attempting to sprint across the ice. “The faster I go, the steadier I get!” he shouted behind him once, right before his chest and hands caught the weight of his body on the wet ice. He tried holding onto an upside down wastebasket, but because he is tall for his age, skating along at a 90-degree angle didn’t seem to improve his skills much. We tried several methods, but mainly resorted to our wall and hand gripping device. Near the end, I ended up just wrapping my arms around his chest, under his arms, instructing him to keep his feet STILL so he could slide across the ice and just enjoy it. Fortunately, there were several who took pity on my quickly failing plight (and were also, most likely, partly drawn in by JB’s effortless charm that was prominent even in his unsuccessful skating attempts,) and offered to take him for a lap around the rink, or to grab his other hand as a team effort. This, probably unbeknownst to the individual offering, was a half an hour volunteer job. It also consisted of about six or seven lifts of the full weight of this boy decked out in heavy snow clothes with skates on. After about an hour of these trips around the rink, holding onto this slipping and sliding kid, lifting him up and making coaching attempts that were slowly decreasing in frequency, spectators and volunteers began to inquire after my back, to make sure I wasn’t in pain. My back was fine - JB’s tenacity and determination to master this sport seemed to increase my patience. I admired his desire to keep trying. A few times I gently asked him if he wanted to step off the ice for a while, “no! I’m just ready for another trip around, KK,” he would respond. Once he looked up at me endearingly and softly said, “lots of these kids are better than me, huh?” Then, after a long pause, “but practice makes perfect!” He skated away just to fall down again. After the two hours on the rink, JB and I were both ready to step off. I assured him that next time he tried, it wouldn’t seem so foreign and hard. He’s excited to take another stab at it. I love that boy.

I think this experience is analogous to how God looks at me. I feel like in living my life in the attempt of being set apart for God, and in my attempts to increase the closeness of spiritual proximity to Him, I am about as successful as JB on the ice sometimes. But like JB, I don’t want to give up – and God is still holding my hand, constantly picking me up and setting me on my feet again, only His back never gets tired. Sometimes he even has to grab me from behind and gently push me along. But while my patience with JB would eventually run out, His patience with me is infinite. I want my tenacity to remain. I always want to have that desire to step back out onto the slippery ice and try again.

*I realize that in this analogy I compared myself to God. I’m not entirely sure of the ethics of that, but I think it’s OK in this case.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Christian's Comfort

I found this on a little note card in my Aunt Carmen’s bible today during a visit. Uncle Aldo was talking about John 5:24, how it’s his favorite verse in the whole Bible. When I asked him what it said, he leaned over, looked at me intently and quoted, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” Then he sighed and said, “That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?” They are devoted Catholics and have been their whole lives, but in recent years it’s as if they just discovered the Bible. It’s so great. Uncle Aldo said he never thought about it much before, but now they study it regularly. Aunt Carmen wanted to show me her Bible, so while I was flipping through it, this piece of paper fell out and I thought it was beautiful.

The Christian’s Comfort
(Extract from a letter by Dr. James DeKoven, written just before his death, to a friend in affliction, March, 1879)
The Christian’s comfort in sorrow is to be found, not in the memory, but in the presence of the one we love. The Christian is in Christ; the departed loved one is in Christ, too, only nearer to Him than we on earth. One is on this side of the veil, the other on that. By coming nearer to Christ the living and the dead come nearer to each other in Him, not in any physical manner by sight or sound or touch – that would be only to restore what is most imperfect and what death was meant to end – but in the deep, hidden bonds that bind the souls of them that love Him together in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thus, prayers and good works and Holy Communion and the personal love of Jesus, become the comfort of one that sorrows, not because they make one forget or benumb one’s feelings, but because through them the soul is being drawn nearer to Christ.

Thus there becomes a deep meaning in the benediction, “Blessed are they that mourn."

Monday, February 8, 2010

Cursed by the Cursor, Sometimes

When I type, my fingers usually move faster than my brain, pushing the cursor forward at a speed I can’t keep up with mentally. This equals too much time staring at the blinking cursor, which is a sight I loathe. That little propeller of my thoughts, expressions and well thought-out research findings (wink) should be moving, moving, moving, not running in place. When I write in my composition notebook that is covered with colorful cutouts from my favorite magazines, my brain moves much faster than my pen. Somehow, once that thin blue ink begins stroking the paper, I suddenly realize my hand will ache if I try to get it all written by hand. The thoughts and ideas jumble up in my brain, I feel unorganized and sometimes I even, give up. If, however, tenacity prevails, I usually use this method: jot down notes, then resort to my little white friendly Macintosh to chug out the finished product, even if it inevitably means staring at the palpitating cursor. That’s what happened here. I’ve needed to write for a while – I know that. There has been a dry spell; I’ve been uninspired (thanks to Debbie G. for mentioning it and sort of kicking me into action). So today I sat down with my chubby composition notebook and wrote some notes, then I unfolded my laptop and it turned into a blog. It feels good.

I’ve been out of college since June. After that I worked on my senior project - more like fought with it and lost, because I made little progress. Then I traveled across the Atlantic to live in Bosnia for a month. When I returned home, I buckled down and chugged out my senior project like serious business. That was done and it felt, and still feels, good. By the way, I rocked that project. 38 pages of well presented, thoroughly researched information. Not to brag or anything. Then there was Thanksgiving and Christmas where I squeezed the last drop of enjoyment out of the luxury of no work and no homework. In January I turned serious about this job-hunting business. Aaaaand, nothing yet. I found out that’s okay, though. I mean, for now. Upon reflection of my time at home after college, I’ve been enlightened in a few areas. Let’s start with – life at home is a full time job. Even without a job, and no school, I am constantly busy. It’s a mystery. I could list all the things I do every day, but when I actually materialize them into words, somehow they lose their significance and legitimacy. Trust me though, they’re important, and they keep me from losing my mind from boredom. Next enlightenment? I love being an adult, but I don’t like being a grown up all the time. (Yes, I realize grown-ups don’t exist – see my past blog post – but I don’t know of a better term for the meaning I’m trying to convey.) Sometimes when I hang out with my sisters or cousins I feel like a kid – and I love it. Wrestling, fighting over silly things and blaring music in the kitchen while we do the dishes isn’t exactly grown-up behavior… is it? It’s great though, because I don’t care. I know I’m an adult, and I can fall back on that fact whenever I need. It’s like the best of both worlds. I think I can accurately call myself a content person. Aside from the occasional rash outburst of emotion and “get me out of here!” mentalities, I’m content here at home until something better comes along. I’ve had time to read, which is great and has clarified the fact that I’m not as well read as I want to be. Lately I picked up a book of short stories and have read authors like Edgar Allan Poe, James Joyce, William Faulkner and Jean-Paul Sartre. They’re so good and interesting! I’m excited to read more of these authors now that my appetite has been wet for them. I’ve also had time to spend with JB, which only solidifies my desire to someday be a mom. I love kids, and when they love you back it’s just irreplaceable. There are plenty of things to make me content while living at home again. It might be cliché to say (it’s even cliché to say it’s cliché – Pam from The Office taught me that), but I want to enjoy the now. Someday my here will become my there, then I might want my here back again. Tonight, propped up on my cozy bed with plans to go make a cup of tea, listening to Greg Laswell and blogging for the first time in a while, I’m content.

Also – when I moved back into the house with four other people, it quickly became obvious that people have too much STUFF. I think that’s enough said on that topic, and if not I’m saving it for the next post.