Friday, May 18, 2012

The Friendship

"The friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others." -C.S. Lewis
God and my parents have taught me a lot about friendship. I certainly have made, am making, and will make my share of mistakes, but through all those problems and embarrassing situations, I have learned so much.
When I saw this quote on a blog my mom was reading one morning at breakfast, it immediately seemed so true, so poignant. You know those moments when you are tuning/playing your guitar and you hit that low 'E' and BAM you know it is spot on, perfect, at last? It was kind of like that.  For you non-musical speech and debate type people, think of it as finally finding the perfect solvency advocate, except instead of explaining succinctly why we should adopt your carefully prepared, precious case, it clearly states a philosophy that your life experience has been developing inside your mind that previously you couldn’t articulate.
I love quotes.  They’re like evidence about how life works, from people who have been there.  This one is important to me because I think a lot of the time, we look for friends in the 'cool' people, the beautiful, the cute, the popular. Once we push, shove, and trample our way into their elite circle, we think we have it made. But we realize something pretty quickly.
It's not real.
That group of people, who seemed to have the 'good taste', the best friends, the most fun, the twitter-pating conversations, aren't really 'friends' at all. They are merely an intrigue of disguises, trying desperately to hide their own insecurity and faults by trampling on those of others. You and your friendship don’t matter to them, except when they can be used as a tool for their own gain. You try and get their attention, only to be shoved back onto the sidelines, blushing, knowing that you aren't truly accepted.
Trust me. I've been there. It leaves you feeling worthless, and upset.
But that's where true friendship comes in. More often than not, your best friends aren't the ones you chose because of looks, possessions, or that cute older brother/sister you want to get to know. 
True friends are the ones who you know love you for who you are, for the beauty God has placed in each and every one of us, and that those who really love you, your 'kindred spirits' as Anne Shirley would say, can see.
True friends are the people you can be yourself around. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them." Isn't it great have people who fully accept you with all your foibles, and like you anyway? People who don't mind if you do something, well, stupid? Because they know what you are really like, and won't reject you just because you aren’t considered cool, aren’t willing to act the way they want you to, or do something embarrassing like totally trip on the edge of the basketball court (not like I have personal experience with this or anything...). True friends won’t forsake you even when you say something they don’t like to hear.
Always remember that no matter who rejects you, to God, you are beautifully, wonderfully, perfectly made. Those who really love you can see it.
And that will never change.
I thank God for all the amazing, true friends He has given me.  To those of you reading this who stand by me and love me even when I don’t deserve it, a thousand thanks.  I love you guys so much.
You are all so wonderful! And so is C.S. Lewis.

Friday, May 11, 2012

But Dismiss Your Fears

What are you most afraid of?
How you answer that question reveals an awful lot about your character.  Sometimes I can tell easily how a person would answer by just watching and listening.  For a couple of my good friends, I’ve even asked them.  I like to know.  It helps me understand them better, and I hope that maybe sometimes, because I know, I’ll be able to help them avoid or relieve their fears.
A while ago I decided to try and think carefully about what I feared most.  The list I came up with is 5) spiders; 4) being misunderstood; 3) losing someone I love/heartbreak; 2) wasting my life/messing up; and 1) torture.
That last one must be some kind of irrational fear, because no one else I know seems to have the same cold dread of seeing someone tortured that I do.  My only experience with this is in movies and TV shows, but I simply can’t stand it.  I used to make my family forward through the scenes in the Pit of Despair in the Princess Bride long after my younger siblings could handle it.  I still can’t really handle it, and I’ve had several people tell me they just don’t understand.  I don’t understand how they can watch that stuff without flinching, but I guess that’s how irrational fears work.
Something that’s not on the list has been bothering me for a long time: the fear of God.  The Bible states very clearly that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” in Proverbs 1:7.  I want to find this knowledge, but I can’t seem to be ‘scared’ of God.  Instead, I find myself marveling at His indescribable grace.  I cling to Him because life and my inability to cope scare me, and I know His love is all I need.  If anything, I’m scared of myself, but definitely not of mercy.  Ashamed, maybe, but not fearful.  
Too often I worry about what other people will think, and if they’ll misconstrue my words or my actions.  Jesus said in Matthew chapter 10 that we shouldn’t fear those who can only kill the body.  Rather, we should fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  I get the concept--don’t worry about what people think or what they’ll do to you.  Instead, fear what God thinks of you and His judgement.  In the end, that matters so much more than being misunderstood by people here on earth.  God will never misunderstand or mistake His judgement.  Knowing myself, if standing judgement were up to my own deeds that would not be a fact in my favor.  I want to be free from all fears except the fear of God, but as Adam Young put it, “I’m scared to death that I’ll never be afraid”. 
I asked a friend what they thought about this the other day.  They answered that the Bible seems to be talking about a very different kind of fear.  Sort of like how fearing the discipline of your parents is different from fearing spiders or things that go bump in the dark.
But the Bible also says “Don’t be afraid” over and over and over and over.  365 times, I’ve heard.  And we’re told why in 1 John 4:16-18: “We know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.  In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement, because in this world we are like Him.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
Life can be a scary sort of adventure sometimes.  As I approach graduation from high school, more and more uncertainties about the future pop up and clamor to be worried about.  But I know and rely on the love God has for me.  I am by no definition perfect in love myself, but I’m committed to living my life in His love as much as I can, because perfect love drives out all fear.  Looking ahead, I know that as Mumford and Sons beautifully phrased it, “There will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears.  And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.”
God is Love.  He will not break my heart, but dismiss all my earthly fears, leaving only the concern that I please and glorify Him.
I don’t need to fear being misunderstood.  I don’t need to fear losing loved ones or heartbreak.  I don’t need to fear wasting my life or messing up.  God understands me completely.  His love is perfect.  And He has a plan.  

Friday, May 4, 2012

In Loving Memory ["You just hide and watch me!"]

     A very special man was born seventy three years ago last Monday.  He worked as an aerospace engineer for Douglas Aircraft, Fairchild, and Parker Hannafin.  I could point to the exact parts on the rocket Saturn V and the space shuttle Columbia that he worked on designing.  I am so proud of him.
     He married the queen of her high school senior prom, Gretchen Kintz, where they lived in South Bend, Indiana.  The young couple packed up their belongings, down to classy ties and spiffy wrist length gloves, and moved to California.  Soon they had a family: Bob, Jim, Steve, Jere, and Eileen.  Their fourth and youngest son, Jere, is my dad.
     My Papa, also named Jere, led a wonderful life of resplendent integrity.  On a driving trip I recently took with his wife, my Nana, I asked her to tell me more about him.  She described how brilliant and funny he was, and yet he never put anyone down.  He and his best friend were political opposites--a Republican and a Democrat--and yet they they had hours of conversation and never once argued or had hard words.  That’s a rare  and priceless quality.
     When he wanted to celebrate something, he didn’t splurge.  Instead, his favorite treat was to buy himself a Payday bar.  Even though I adore chocolate, I also love Paydays, for Papa’s sake.  
     His humor came from an amazing spectrum of knowledge, referencing books, movies, newspapers, history, music, and more.  A conversation with him must have been a like a collage of all the above, held together by delightful wit.  I wish I could have talked to him.
     Papa valued family and relations so highly that my dad didn’t realize until he grew up himself that any of their relatives had any problems.  His dad always spoke highly of every single one of them, and hardly said anything less than complimentary about anyone else.  He loved people, and loved making them happy.
     A few years ago, my family and I took a road trip to Washington, D.C.  We saw plenty of  things along the way, but the best treat of all came from a little town in Virginia.  Nana and Papa had been dear friends with a couple named Don and Sue.  Don had since passed on, but we got to have dinner with Sue, her grown children, and their children.  Before we ate, Sue beckoned my dad and I over to a little table by a window.  She handed us a blue paper bag full of paper.  “These are all the letters your father wrote to Don,” she said.  “I thought you’d like to read them.”  We hadn’t expected anything of the kind, but she couldn’t have given us a better gift.  There were so many letters, we spent hours in the car on the way home and around our dinner table while my dad read them aloud.  Some made us laugh.  Others solved long standing family mysteries.  Sue had given us a treasure.
     Running through each letter was a theme of constant optimism.  Papa seemed to have made it his life goal to cheer Don and Sue, and give them something to laugh about.  He told them about special concerts he and Nana had gone to see together, the hijinks of his kids, and sent newspaper clippings or comics he thought Don would enjoy.  He was very newsy, and through page after page of beautifully handwritten words, I finally got to know a man I have long admired and missed.
     When he was only fifty eight, Papa passed away from a horrendous tumor that gave him brain cancer.  I was two years old.  Before the tumor took him away from us entirely, it first stole parts of his brain.  He could no longer come up with the words he needed to convey what he meant.  Papa couldn’t remember how to talk, but we’ll never forget what he used to say.  We still quote him all the time.
     When someone asked him for something’s price, he’d answer:
     “Oh, about a buck three eighty.”
     When one of his kids complained that they wanted something, he’d remind them:
     “Yup! And people in hell want ice water.”
     When there was an unpleasant job to be done, he’d roll up his sleeves and say cheerily:
     “It’s better than a poke in the eye with a hot stick!”
     If you asked him what was for dinner, you wouldn’t get a more satisfactory answer than:
     “Fried jambo leaves and hominy grits!”
     He liked to remind himself that hard work and determination made everything easier:
     “It’s no hill for a climber.”
     My all time favorite was saved for occasions when someone told him that what he was attempting was impossible.
     “You just hide and watch me.”
     Although I remember plenty of stories about Papa, I don’t know if I remember knowing him.  The closest is remembering the time, not long before he passed away, that he pulled me in a wagon from his house to the corner, one house down.  That memory might just be because I’ve seen a picture.  If I had a time machine, the first thing I’d do is go back and meet my Papa and talk to him.  I miss knowing him.  I miss him so much.
     But even if I never meet him in this life, I will see him again.
     I remember the night he died.  My cousin Mckenna, who was three, and I were playing dress up. One hat, and one of Nana’s shoes each.  We also sat together at the piano and pretended to play a duet.  But I don’t remember Papa.
     He passed away in what is now my room.  All of his family was gathered around, except my dad, who had gone to the kitchen.  A few months earlier, Papa had been asked to play one of the three wise men in a Christmas play.  He couldn’t speak by that point, so he had no lines, but he had a kingly costume.  Nana asked my dad if he’d seen pictures from the performance, and he hadn’t, so he left his dad briefly to see them.  He found the pictures in the kitchen and looked at the smile on his dad’s face.  Papa was wearing crown as part of his costume.  At the moment my dad saw the crown, Papa passed away.  My dad knew this was God’s way of telling him that his dad was now in heaven with him and had received the Crown of Life.
     Papa, I love you and I miss you.  If not for that tumor, you would still be here with us, alive and well.  Thinking about you makes me sad, but writing about you is my way of remembering you and reminding myself that one day I’ll get to meet you.  Right now, you’re living in eternal perfection with your Savior.  And that makes me so glad.
     Love, Carey. <3
     “There will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears.  And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.  Get over your hill and see what you’ll find there, with grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.”