Monday, March 29, 2010

Expectant Easter Living

This morning as I was reading about Holy Week in The Message, one sentence jumped off the page at me. It was Mark 15:43, where Mark describes the man who was courageous enough to go to Pilate and ask to bury the body of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea. “He was one who lived expectantly, on the lookout for the Kingdom of God.”

Living expectantly. Wow! What would that look like, I began to ask myself.

For starters, what did it look like for Joseph on that Good Friday so long ago? We don’t know a great deal about this Joseph. But as we piece together the various Gospel accounts (he appears in all four narratives), we learn these facts. He was a wealthy man who was a respected member of the Sanhedrin. He is described as a “good and righteous” man who did not go along with the decision to crucify Jesus. (Luke 23:50-51) John tells us that he had been a secret follower of Jesus because he was afraid of the Jews. (John 19:38)

Yet now Joseph goes to Pilate and makes a bold request. One that could get him in trouble with the Romans because criminals executed for high treason (as Jesus ostensibly was) were not given the right to a proper burial. One that would certainly get him in big trouble with the Jews, jeopardizing his place and standing in the religious community. He wants the body of Jesus released to him, so he can bury him lovingly and respectfully in his own tomb.

What gave him the courage to do this? Was it partly at least because he lived expectantly? Because he was “on the lookout for the Kingdom of God”?

Joseph, it seems, was searching for God, even though as a member of the high Jewish council he could have complacently felt as though he already knew everything there was to know about God. Or, if he wasn’t actively searching for God until Jesus came on the scene, at least he was open to seeing Him when He came along.

It makes me wonder how expectantly I am living. Am I “on the lookout” for God? Am I asking Him to show up in my life and show me more of Himself? More of who He is calling me to be and what He is calling me to do—as a wife, as a mother and grandmother, as a neighbor, as a teacher and Mom to Mom leader, as a follower of Jesus?

And am I willing to be surprised by how He appears and what He says? So often God doesn’t show up in the ways we most expect. Joseph of Arimathea, wealthy man in the community and respected member of the Sanhedrin, surely could not have expected the Messiah to show up as carpenter from Galilee (Nazareth, of all places!) who turned everything upside down by healing the sick and raising the dead and upturning the tables of the money-changers in the temple — and got the Jewish rulers so frenzied in their fury that they wanted him crucified!

Yesterday, on Palm Sunday, our preacher spoke of the varying expectations that people in the Palm Sunday crowd had of Jesus. And he asked a penetrating question, one that echoes in my heart on this Monday morning: “What kind of Jesus are you expecting? What kind of Jesus do you have — one Who submits to what you want Him to do? Or One to Whom you need to submit?”

It’s an important question this Easter. It’s an important question every day of our lives, actually. Because Jesus often shows up in places and in ways we least expect. Just ask Joseph the next day after he had buried Him. Or ask Peter or John or those first women at the tomb. They surely had not expected their Messiah, their Lord, to die on a cross. And once they had buried Jesus, what did they expect? Probably not what they got on Easter morning! But (praise God) He showed up anyway — and changed the course of history (and our lives!) from that moment on!

Expectant Easter living. What would that look like for us, for you and for me, this Easter? I’m not entirely sure. I just know I’d like to try it. I’d like to ask God to show me Himself in new ways. I’d like to be open to surprises. I’d like to be willing to act on what He tells me to do — to follow Him even when I don’t understand what He is doing, to go with Him through the dark times toward the joy that comes in the morning.

“She was one who lived expectantly, on the lookout for the Kingdom of God.” Expectant Easter blessings to you this Holy Week!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Songs from the Mama-Heart

I’ve just returned from Dublin. We had nine glorious days there—with not one drop of rain. And, believe it or not, 8 of those 9 days were sunny! It must be some kind of record.

But of course we didn’t go to Ireland for the weather. We went to be with our daughter and granddaughter (and son-in-law, when he wasn’t working). In a sense, our 9 days there were very ordinary. What we wanted most to do was just “hang out” with Erika and Gabriella.

And that’s what we did. We took long walks with Gabriella in the “buggy” (what the Irish call strollers). We did a little shopping here and there—at Avoca in a beautiful place called Powers Court, at IKEA (well, more than a little shopping there, IKEA being nearly a city in itself), and even at local supermarkets. We visited “Kiddlywinks,” a large playgroup that meets at their church every Friday morning. We got to go in and get Gigi (Gabriella’s nickname) out of her “cot” (what we call a “crib”) after naptime and savor the huge grin and sweet hugs fresh from a well-rested baby.

In a sense, ordinary days. But of course not ordinary at all for this “Nana and Farfar,” who have to fly so many miles to experience them. The days always fly by too fast. And the trip home is always long. The westbound flight actually is an hour or so longer than the eastbound flight. But it feels even longer than that because my “Nana heart” feels we’re flying in the wrong direction.

But I come home with sweet memories—and music in my heart. One reason for that is that Gabriella absolutely loves music.—any kind. And dancing. At the least hint of music from any source, be it a CD or a toy or even a cell phone, she moves and grooves to the music. She is very much like her mother was in that it is almost physically impossible for her to remain still when the music starts.

Music is truly a great gift for Gabriella—and her mother. When she is sad, it soothes her. When she is cranky, it picks up her mood. When she is bored, it energizes her. She has music in her soul.

Which brings me to the “Mama-songs” in the title. One of my favorite memories from last week is getting to put Gigi to bed one night when we “traded rooms” with Erika and Richie, sending them for a night out for dinner and a movie and then overnight at a B&B while we stayed at their place and took care of Gabriella.

Before they left, I went over Gigi’s bedtime rituals with Erika. These involve reading a couple of board books with her, getting her “soother” (pacifier) and favorite stuffed animal Hammie out of the cot, and rocking her and singing to her before putting her to bed.

“What songs do you sing?” I asked Erika. “ ‘Children of the Heavenly Father,’ ‘Peace,’ and ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd,’” she said.

Suddenly I was taken back many years, for the first two songs are the songs I sang to all my children when I put them to bed. The first is especially precious—an old Swedish hymn that has been a vital part of life in my husband’s family for decades. We had it sung at our wedding, at the funerals of both Woody’s parents, and the music was used in the weddings of all three of our kids. I even tried to sing one verse in Swedish to our kids before bed, though I imagine a true Swede wouldn’t have recognized my butchered Swedish. The kids didn’t seem to mind.

As I rocked Gigi that night and sang to her, I could feel her settle and snuggle to the familiar songs. My mama-heart was flooded with memories. Memories of rocking and singing to my own children so long ago. But also a sweet memory from two Christmases ago. One night Erika had taken the then-newborn Gigi down to our lower level to calm her crying. She was rocking her and singing to her when our grandson Bengt slipped down the stairs and began to watch and listen from the bottom step. She was singing “Children of the Heavenly Father.”

“My Daddy sings that song to me,” Bengt said, mesmerized by the familiar music. “That’s my Daddy’s song.” Yes, it was. And is. And his daddy’s daddy’s song before that. And his great-grandfather and grandmother. Mommies and daddies of each generation probably sang that song to their babies.

It is a hymn reminding us all of God’s grace and protection in all the days—and nights—of our lives. In a sense it’s a grown-up song. The words probably mean very little to small children. They mean more, at the time, to the mommies and daddies who sing them, needing God’s love and grace and peace for another night—and another day.

But music touches the soul. It’s a beautiful way to live out Psalm 78:3-7: “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord . . .”
Read the rest—and sing!

What songs are you singing to your children?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I Would Like to Introduce . . .

. . . the newest member of our family: Nils David Anderson was born February 23, 2010, in Dover, New Hampshire. Bjorn and Abby are two very proud parents, and “Big Bro” Soren is very happy to tell everybody: “I got a new baby brother!”

We are all so very grateful for Nils’ safe arrival. He is healthy and alert and, I have to say, quite a handsome little guy. What great gifts God gives!

You can imagine how much fun this happy Nana had spending 12 whole days in New Hampshire, first hanging out with Soren while Nils took his time coming, then staying with Soren while Mommy and Daddy were in the hospital. We read piles of books, played car smash-ups, and visited a children’s museum and the library - twice in one week.

He entertained me continually with his just-turned-three commentary on life. A commentary that included everything from his question on waking up one morning (“Nana, do I look older?”) to his concern about birds at a feeder (“Nana, they don’t pray before they eat . . . You should pray, guys”) to his descriptions of his little brother being in “Mommy’s tummy car” to his answer when I asked him about who the man was in a Bible story picture he had colored (“Oh, that’s Zaccheus. He’s just some climber guy.”)

Once Nils arrived home from the hospital, the real adventures began. That first night, the wind was howling wildly, rattling windows and shaking branches against the house. With Soren in bed, we snuggled up with Nils and settled in to watch the Olympics. Just as we were about to watch the final six skaters in the Women’s Figure Skating long program (my favorite part of the Olympics - sigh), Abby and I saw a flash and heard a strange sound outside. The house suddenly went dark. Obviously power was out throughout their neighborhood. And, as it turned out, for some 200,000 plus people in southern New Hampshire. We later learned that the storm sweeping through their area had clocked winds in excess of 90 mph.

That was the beginning of a string of adventures for Nils and his family. A two-day power outage. Packing up everything needed for a new baby and a 3-year-old for a trip down to the Boston area to stay with generous relatives in their warm house. A return home followed by a boiler eruption which sent huge clouds of steam pouring up the stairs into the kitchen. A leaking washing machine.

Then, just six days after Nils came into this world, a readmission to the hospital because Abby had developed an infection. She and Nils have spent two days there. But as I write this, I just got the call that Abby got the “all-clear” and she and Bjorn and Nils are on their way home from the hospital.

What a wild first week in the life of this sweet family of four! I know all you moms are feeling with Abby right now. She has been simply amazing through it all. As I told her the day I left and her parents arrived to help out, my admiration for my daughter-in-law, which was always high, has even risen higher.

Also my gratitude for God’s hand of care and protection through all this. Even amidst a week none of us ever would have wished on a family bringing home a new baby, there have been so many “God moments.” Protection during the storm. Provision of my great brother and sister-in-law to not only provide a warm house but even turn the weekend into a house party, with great food and fun and visits from friends. Heat now restored in Bjorn and Abby’s home.
The gift of antibiotics to knock out infections that decades ago could have raged unabated. God’s timing that a connecting flight Bjorn had on a trip he was to take to Colorado was delayed in Chicago, allowing him time to get word of Abby’s infection and turn around and get home instead of traveling further west. Even a great experience with airline customer relations, with an immediate flight back to Boston and a waived change fee.

Above all, we praise God that Nils is whole and healthy and Abby regaining her strength. How much we have to be thankful for!

And oh yes, another praise I almost forgot. Some of you will remember Soren’s broken femur last summer and his two months in a body cast. Last Friday he had his 6-month checkup and was told his leg has healed so perfectly they didn’t even need to do x-rays.

What a gift to see him running and playing. He’s had a hard time seeing Mommy go back to the “hostipal.” But today he welcomes her home again—for good this time, we trust.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!