Sunday, October 25, 2009

Things That Matter

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about things that matter and things that don’t. Well, at least, things that don’t matter that much.

One week ago I returned from a 10-day trip. I was facing plenty of catch-up “to do” on the home front. (You know that drill.) I was very, very glad to be home—but was all too quickly consumed by my to-do lists: loads of laundry, an empty refrigerator and pantry, email pile-up, household maintenance calls, beds that needed changing, bathrooms screaming to be cleaned—all this and much more. Sound familiar?

In the midst of this, I had two local speaking engagements on the topic of “Living Your Legacy—Starting Now.” During these, I spoke to women (some moms and some not) about focusing on what really matters. Then I went to a funeral at which a friend of mine gave the eulogy, a moving tribute to his mother.

I began to refocus a bit on the things that really matter.

Then I went to the post office. I went to mail a box to my daughter Erika of miscellaneous things she can’t get in Ireland. Things like chocolate and butterscotch chips, the “right kind” of deodorant, Starbucks coffee (which you can get in Dublin but almost need to take out a loan to buy), a small devotional book I wanted her to have—all kinds of bits and pieces of things.

When my long-awaited turn came, I proudly approached the window with my entire customs form filled out. It’s taken me a while to get the details of international mailing down, but this time I was ready to go. Or so I thought. That is, until the postal worker paused and said, ”M’am, you have a few more things to fill out here . . .”

It turns out that the U.S. Customs Department has issued a new regulation: every single item listed on the form must also have its exact weight specified. That is, M&M’s: so many ounces. Book, so many ounces. Deodorant, so many ounces. Et cetera. You get the drift. And, these individual weights must add up—to the ounce—to the total weight of the box.

Furthermore, the postal employee must now enter every one of these individual details into the computer. Picture the line forming behind me while all this occurs.

It may sound very silly to you, but this was the proverbial last straw in my day with its never-ending to-do list. I immediately saw visions before me of how I would weigh each baby dress or pair of socks sent to Gabriella. Each mint chocolate brownie sent to Lars. The higher math (for me) involved in getting each of these weights to add up to the total. The line that would form behind me each time I go to the post office. Whether or not I would escape such a line with my life . . .

I felt an overwhelming need to vent. (My house guests, the painter working at our house, and my husband can all tell you that vent I did.)

Back at home, I sat down to check my email, and discovered that my husband, Woody, had written an extremely moving email to our family in honor of the 37th anniversary of his father’s death—the grandpa our kids never knew, because he died so young. He never met any of his grandkids.

But his legacy surely lives on. His life has already had a multi-generational effect. He was a B-17 pilot in WWII, flying 29 bombing missions over Germany. Then later, he became a commercial pilot for TWA for the rest of his all-too-short career. He would have loved to have known Lars, and Lars would so love to be able to talk with him.

Woody’s father, B-17 pilot

But his legacy goes much deeper than that. Though Woody wrote several pages about him, these words stand out:
“Most of all, he taught me to love and cherish God. He taught me to live a life that was steady—a steady, solid faith. Not flashy, but solid. He lived in such a way that I knew deep down that God mattered and He loved us and that those facts were foundational in our lives in a deep-down way. He taught me to love our children by loving me and my sisters. I miss him every day.”

Woody with his father and sister

Woody ended his note with some musings about the legacy of a father—both his own and his father’s. He talked about not being perfect. About having rough edges, but still living out the things that matter most. He asked (really asking himself as much as our kids), “Have I been that kind of father to you? Have Mom and I pushed you to love God and to hold fast to Him as the most important thing in your life? I hope so. God knows we pray for you daily, constantly, and entreat God to protect and prosper you in the ways He chooses . . .”

Woody (center back) with his father, grandfather, and two sisters

My focus on what really matters returned. There are things that matter and things that don’t—or at least that don’t matter as much as the things that really matter. Woody’s email letter was a good reminder for me.

Good reminder for all of us, yes?

I leave you with a quote I read recently:
“Our greatest fear as a church and as individuals should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” *
Hmmm. Helps to put the lines at the post office (and new customs form regulations) in perspective, doesn’t it?

*Tim Kizziar, quoted by Francis Chan in his book, Crazy Love

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Marathon Moms

I’ve been hanging out with a lot of moms lately. It’s one of my favorite things about Fall. I get to speak at various Mom to Mom groups as they start their year. This month I’ve been with moms in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New Hampshire—and Dublin, Ireland!

No, the moms I met in Dublin weren’t actually in a Mom to Mom group. You guessed it—Woody and I were visiting our daughter. And, of course, our granddaughter :) And it seemed that everywhere we went there were “mums” (as they say) and babies.

Amazing how much moms have in common, isn’t it? Whether we live on Cape Cod or near the White Mountains of New Hampshire or in southeastern Pennsylvania—or Ireland! There are just certain things a mom understands that no one else “gets” in the same way. It’s one of the things I love about Mom to Mom.

While we were in Dublin, there were a number of wonderful moments. We went with Erika and Gabriella to get “Gigi’s” (as they often call her) first haircut. We attended our son-in-law Richie’s graduation from Irish Bible Institute—a great accomplishment and wonderful celebration. We worshipped with one of my favorite congregations—Erika and Richie’s little “Saturday @ Five” community.

But there was one moment that stands out. One moment that captured “the Mom thing” in a unique and memorable way. While we were there, Erika ran the Dublin Half-Marathon. It was a gorgeous day. Perfect weather for running—probably low sixties, slight breeze, a little sun but not too much. Woody and Richie and I had the pleasure not only of watching Erika run but also hanging out with Gabriella for the morning. Actually, Richie did most of it. He carried Gabriela around all morning in the “Baby Bjorn.” And did she ever love it! Being both very social and vey curious, she loved the fact that she had a great view, could wave her “Princess Di” wave to anyone who passed by—and not miss a thing that was going on anywhere.

Though we had both the “buggy” (what the Irish call strollers) and a blanket and toys so she could have a change of scenery if needed, she seemed so happy in her cozy front-carrier that we really never moved her around much.

When Erika came running over to us after crossing the Finish Line, flush with adrenalin and exhaustion and the joy of meeting her goal of under two hours, she was delighted to hear how well Gigi had done in her happy perch. Until, that is, she noticed that the “Baby Bjorn” was a little bit wet. And then she inquired whether we’d given her anything to drink. Or had she had her lunch yet?

OK, here comes the embarrassing truth. While Erika was running a half-marathon, her daughter’s Nana (a mommy herself, no less!), “Farfar” (what the kids call Woody, with a nod to his Swedish heritage), and Daddy (and a really good daddy, I might add) missed the fact that she might be wet, could need a drink, and that it was time for her lunch! When Mommy came back, things shaped up in a hurry, you can be sure.

In our defense, I must say that Gabriella was happy as could be, had had a snack earlier, and seemed content to wait for lunch till Mommy crossed the finish line.
But nonetheless, it was a revealing moment for me. What a marathon moms run every day of their lives! This “mom-job” is never-ending, relentless, 24/7. And despite any help you may or may not get from the rest of your family, it’s Mommy where the buck stops, isn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for the whole family pitching in. I love to see how gracefully both my sons and my son-in-law “co-parent” their children. They do a great job!

It’s just that I want to salute every one of you moms for the amazing role you play in the lives of your kids. It’s worthy of a medal, really. I hope you know how we at Mom to Mom cheer you on, hope to offer you refreshment and encouragement along the way—and salute you for running a most important race!